When a person suffers loss or damage to his or her person or property, a claim can often be filed with the insurance company. Insurance is meant to help a person in their time of need when faced with difficult circumstances. Sometimes, however, a person may have a dispute with the insurance company over what is covered under the policy, and how much is offered to settle the claim.
How Do I Know What Is Covered by my Insurance Policy?
Insurance policies are often broad documents that are meant to cover a variety of events that can cause loss or damage to health or property. It is always a good idea to have a strong understanding of the limits of your insurance policies when purchasing insurance. If a claim falls into dispute, an insurance company may use a person's lack of knowledge against him or her. Because it is often rare that a person files a claim, they may not have knowledge of the limits of their policy readily available. It may be helpful to check with the insurance company at the time of renewal to review the limits of your policy. As painful and boring as it may be, you really have to closely read the insurance policy to understand what exactly is covered. I recommend combining this activity with several cups of strong coffee.
I Have to Make a Claim. Will this Become a Dispute?
The majority of claims do not actually proceed to a dispute. Many insurance companies are willing to offer fair settlements to their customers based upon their policies. The policy language will govern what is covered, though sometimes state law mandates that certain provisions be included in all policies. Provided that an insurance company is not acting in bad faith, and the settlement offered is fair and covers the loss, a person does not normally encounter an insurance dispute.
What Is an Insurance Dispute?
Insurance disputes are disagreements between the insurer and insured regarding what is an appropriate amount for a claim. Disputes can arise with auto insurance, homeowner's insurance, health insurance, or even specialized policies, such as boat insurance or flood insurance. Disputes commonly arise when a person is entitled to a certain amount of coverage, but the insurance company refuses to pay that amount or claims different values than what a person is entitled to receive per the policy. While not all claims will lead to disputes, in cases where there is a lot of money on the line, insurance companies may be less willing to pay a claim.
My Insurance Company Is Giving Me an Unfair Settlement. What Can I Do?
When a person faces an unfair settlement from their insurance company, he or she can attempt to negotiate it first. Sometimes insurance companies require different types of proof of ownership in order to fulfill larger claims. Attempting to negotiate these claims with an insurance company can sometimes prove fruitful; however, there are other times when a person cannot make progress in negotiating a settlement. If you feel you are entitled to a higher settlement, or if your insurance company is acting in bad faith, it may become advisable to seek legal counsel to better negotiate the claim.
Should I Involve an Attorney?
It will be helpful to involve an attorney early in the process, especially if you feel you are not being treated fairly. An attorney will be able to bring close knowledge of the law to the dispute. In addition, if the matter must be litigated, an attorney can represent your interests in court. Typically, the earlier an attorney is involved in a case, the stronger the case will be in court. And, as always in legal matters, time limits apply, so we recommend quick action so time limits don't bar your claim.
What Does "Bad Faith" Mean?
Insurance companies are required by law to act in "good faith" to the individuals they have agreed to insure. This means that in the event of a loss, an insurance company must pay what a person is entitled to according to the terms of the insurance policy. Many disputes stem from a disagreement on what a person can claim, and insurance companies may try to prevent full and fair payouts on those claims through bad faith methods. In cases where insurance companies act in bad faith, a claimant may be able to receive more for his or her claim than initially entitled because the insurance company did not act in good faith. Acts of insurance companies operating in bad faith towards their policyholders may result in special penalties or punitive damages.
Will my Insurance Dispute go to Court?
Many times, a dispute can be resolved through careful negotiation and diligent representation. Many insurance companies prefer to avoid the risks, bad publicity, and costs associated with bringing a claim to litigation. This can provide a person an edge in negotiations. At times, however, neither side finds the terms agreeable, and the matter must be settled in court through the litigation process. At trial, claims will be settled through argument and evidence, and the final decision and ruling on the claim will be made by the judge or jury.
What Will Serve as Compensation for my Dispute?
Insurance claims may result in much more favorable settlements once an attorney is involved. Insurance companies may be more willing to settle with an attorney because the possibility of a lawsuit is more real. Regardless if the case is settled outside of court or a verdict is returned in court, if it is in the claimant's favor, compensation could be provided in the form of monetary damages, and in rare cases may include punitive damages.
Georgia Insurance Dispute Attorneys
If you are involved in an insurance claim and feel that you're not being provided the coverage that your policy provides, you may have an insurance dispute case on your hands. The Gautreaux Law Firm can help. Contact us for a consultation on your case.