Bad Faith Insurance Claims and Car Accidents
Our law firm has extensive experience in “bad faith” claims against auto insurance companies. In Rivas v. GEICO, we represented a District of Columbia couple who sued their insurer GEICO for bad faith after GEICO failed to settle a lawsuit against the Rivases for liability on an auto accident in which their 16-year-old nephew badly hurt a friend of his named Tommy Athridge. The 1987 accident caused many years of litigation. The Athridges won a verdict against the nephew in 1996. Then in 2005, the Athridges successfully persuaded a court that the $5.5 million verdict against the nephew should be applied against the Rivases because they owned the car he was driving (even though the Rivases were out of the country when he took the car without their permission). In 2012, we won a bad faith verdict against GEICO in D.C. Superior Court. We argued that GEICO had failed to protect the Rivases from their potential exposure to a huge verdict against them and that GEICO in essence gambled with the Rivases’ money by fighting the case all the way instead of trying to settle early within the Rivases’ $100,000 coverage. The jury agreed with our position.
Plenty of Bad Drivers in the D.C. Area
In an annual report titled “America’s Best Drivers,” Allstate insurance company rated Washington D.C. dead last in a pool of 200 large cities. Next to last was Baltimore. The analysis by Allstate concluded D.C. drivers only have about 4.8 years between accidents, while drivers in Fort Collins, Colorado have an auto accident about every 13.9 years—a big difference. D.C. Drivers on the whole are a whopping 109.3 percent more likely to be involved in an auto accident than the national average.
Proving Bad Faith
So, in a city full of seemingly bad drivers, what happens when an insurance company denies coverage of a car accident injury claim in “bad faith”? When an insurance company denies a legitimate claim from a policy owner, the insurance company could end up being liable to the insured for more than the amount of the initial claim if bad faith can be shown. Any time an insurance company denies a claim for anything other than a reasonable cause, bad faith may have occurred.
If the denial was due to a mistake, no bad faith existed. Policy owners must generally show that the insurance company failed to engage in a thorough investigation prior to denying the claim or that the insurance company either missed or ignored obvious facts and information which would have proven the claim valid. Policy owners may also be able to demonstrate bad faith if it can be shown the insurance company had a pattern of failure to comply with state regulations governing auto insurance claims.
What Damages are Available if Bad Faith is Proven?
If bad faith is clearly shown, the policy owner may be able to recover the following:
- What the insurance company should have paid for the original claim;
- The amount of damages assessed against the policy owner, even if far in excess of the coverage limits, if the case could have been settled at a much more reasonable number and especially if the case could have been settled within the limits of coverage;
- Consequential damages which occurred as a result of the bad faith insurance claim;
- Damages for the emotional distress resulting from the claim denial, if the circumstances were egregious, and
- Punitive damages if it can be shown the insurance company intentionally or recklessly acted in a manner which harmed the policy holder.
If the insurance company shows the policy owner made an intentional misrepresentation when the claim was filed, no bad faith existed. The insurance company may also be able to show, there was a thorough investigation done, and that their ultimate decision was reasonable. Some of the misconduct on the part of insurance companies which can result in allegations of bad faith include the following:
- Misrepresenting the policy limits of the plaintiff’s insurance policy;
- Ignoring letters from Plaintiff’s counsel on matters related to the claim;
- Rejecting the Plaintiff’s assertions regarding the claim out of hand without properly investigating;
- Rejecting a claim with no explanation;
- Failing to approach the investigation of the claim seriously, thoroughly and diligently;
- Failing to initiate settlement discussions with Plaintiff’s counsel;
- Withholding settlement for long periods of time in an effort to force the Plaintiff to accept a smaller settlement;
- Failing to protect the insured from excess liability, and
- Basically, using every underhanded trick available to save the insurance company money.
With so much at stake, it is crucial to have an experienced bad faith insurance attorney by your side, fighting the insurance company aggressively for the compensation you rightfully deserve. While insurance bad faith cases can be incredibly complex, your attorney will have a thorough understanding of state and federal laws governing bad faith insurance claims and will have your best interests and your future uppermost in his or her mind during the course of the bad faith claim.
Who Causes Car Wrecks in the District of Columbia
In 2012, an analysis of the nearly 30,000 crashes which occurred in Washington D.C. found that the locals were responsible for more than a third (37 percent) of those crashes—as opposed to tourists, or travelers just passing through—other than those from Maryland or Virginia. Drivers from Maryland came in at a close second, being responsible for 33 percent of the total auto crashes in D.C. Virginia drivers appeared to be the safest drivers, being responsible for only 14 percent of all the auto collisions in Washington D.C.
Tourists account for only about 8-9 percent of the car accidents in D.C., however this statistic is a trickier one, as there are scores of military personnel who live in D.C., but keep their out-of-state licenses.
Contact Washington DC Bad Faith Insurance Lawyers
At Patrick Malone & Associates, our lawyers have extensive experience taking on unethical insurance companies in Washington, DC metro area, Virginia, and throughout the State of Maryland. If you or someone you love has been unfairly denied coverage or believes that your insurance company is acting in bad faith, we can help. Call us at 1-202-742-1500 or 1-888-625-6645 or fill out our confidential contact form for a FREE Consultation and review of your case.
The attorneys at Patrick Malone & Associates have successfully represented injured individuals in Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Rockville, Baltimore, Richmond, Fairfax, Maryland, and throughout Virginia.