Often the victim or their family members are facing substantial medical costs due to injuries, both immediate and possibly long term. They may also experience temporary or permanent loss of income, especially if the injuries are brain or spinal cord related. These costs add up quickly. In extreme cases, these costs and losses can lead to bankruptcy for the victim and their family. All too often the limits of the applicable insurance policies will not scratch the surface of the victim's true costs. The victim then asks, "Can we sue for more?" To have a chance at winning a lawsuit for more than the policy's liability limit allows, you would have to show "bad faith" on the insurance carrier's part, through their actions and the handling of your claim. "Bad faith" is a legal or contractual term that means a party intentionally or maliciously failed to fulfill legal or contractual obligations. In its simplest form, someone violated the basic standards of honesty in dealing with others.
Examples of Insurance Bad Faith
One example would be an insurance company intentionally disregarding facts or proof in an injury claim and makes an unreasonably low offer as a result. Another example would be an insurance company repeatedly denying an injury claim to intentionally delay the payment of medical expenses or other items due and owing, with no reasonable explanation as to why they are denying payment. The last example would be an insurance company intentionally re-classifying the type and severity of an injury claim to avoid paying the full amount that is owed.
Does "Bad Faith" on the Insurance Carrier's Part Mean More Money?
If it can be proved, it should. However, each personal injury case comes with its own set of facts, circumstances, attorneys, judges, and juries. No two cases are ever exactly the same, nor are the verdicts and damages awarded.
What if I Can't Prove Bad Faith?
If the defendant's insurance company has acted ethically and honestly with respect to your claim, you would have no legal recourse to recover in excess of the policy limits with the insurance company. In this case, the only other action you could take is to file a lawsuit against the defendant personally. The biggest factor in this course of action would be determining the personal assets of the defendant. Sometimes defendants have substantial personal assets, sometimes they have nothing.
Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me With Bad Faith?
Bad faith claims can be very hard to prove and difficult to pursue. The laws concerning bad faith can also be different from state to state. Outside of the burden of proof and variations in state law, there are times when it is better to settle out of court and times when taking your case to trial is the best option. An experienced civil trial attorney can help you place a reasonable value on your injury or wrongful death claim and, more importantly, help you navigate through the complexities of the legal process.
What Else Can I do to Ensure my Family is Protected?
Be proactive. Buy as much uninsured/underinsured automobile insurance as you can afford. In the event the negligent driver does not have sufficient coverage to fully satisfy your personal injury or wrongful death claim or worse, has no coverage, your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will pay the difference. This coverage can be expensive but it can also save you and your family from financial ruin. If you haven't done so, talk to your insurance agent today about this coverage and purchase as much as you can reasonably afford.