When you've been in an accident and you've been injured, dealing with an unreasonable insurance adjuster, or company can be a difficult and frustrating experience. You want to get back to your normal routine as soon as possible after the incident, but what can you do if your insurance company takes a long time to process your claim?
It is possible to expedite the claims process, but if the insurance company does not move forward with the claim after gathering all your documentation, you may be dealing with something that you need an attorney to help with, or even a bad faith claim.
Reasons Why Your Insurance Company May Be Slow To Respond
There are several reasons why an insurance company delays the settlement of a car accident claim:
- The adjuster has hundreds of files they are working on, and there simply is not enough time in the day.
- The company is waiting for additional documentation, such as your medical records or accident report, is awaiting review by a round-table group or supervisor to approve action.
- Your claim may appear to be fraudulent, and the insurance company wishes to conduct a thorough investigation of it.
- The insurance company is acting in bad faith. Whenever your company behaves in bad faith for no reason other than to delay, it's hoping that you'll drop the claim or settle for less than what you deserve.
Bad Faith Insurance: What Is It?
When an insurer breaches its obligations to its clients, for example, by refusing to pay an insured's legitimate claim or taking too long to investigate and process their claim, this is referred to as bad faith insurance. In the context of automobile or car insurance, that most commonly happens in the insurance of Under-Insured Motorist, or Uninsured Motorist claims.
Insurance companies act in bad faith when they misrepresent the terms of an insurance contract in order to avoid paying claims. They also act in bad faith when they fail to disclose policy coverage to policyholders, demand unreasonable proof of coverage from the policyholder or otherwise ignores proof of loss that confirms that a claim is payable but simply refuses to make payment because they have the money, the lawyers, and the time – and you do not.
Insurance companies may behave in bad faith in a number of ways. Policyholders should consult a lawyer to confront their insurance company if they suspect bad faith.
Assess Whether The Insurance Company Is Stalling Your Car Accident Claims
If insurers had complete control over the rules, they would not be obligated to pay claims. Insurers have incentives to settle claims because of legal regimes, but they would not exist without them. Even when the law is followed, it can take longer or claims to be resolved than what it should. Insurers are required by state law to act reasonably which typically includes that claims should be resolved within a reasonable amount of time. Some states require insurance companies to acknowledge claims within ten to thirty days and to reject or deny them within thirty to forty days, but South Dakota is not one of those states, at least as it applies to automobile insurance. If a reasonable period of time has passed and no decision has been made, the insurer may be required to pay financial penalties as well as interest accrued on your claim that include attorney’s fees, tort damages, and punitive damages on top of what benefits were owed to begin with.
Some states do not have time limits in place, and their laws vary from state to state. If your insurance company is stalling, you should speak with an experienced attorney to determine what steps you need to take to expedite the settlement process.
Claims Insurers Stall On Most Frequently
Insurance companies have a reputation for delaying claims no matter what type of issue they are dealing with. This strategy is used by insurance companies to protect their bottom lines, and it is a common practice among accident victims and homeowners alike. Here are a few types of claims that insurance companies are notorious for delays.
- Under-Insured Motorist claims “UIM” claims that involve primarily “general” damages – damages beyond medical bills and lost wages.
- Insurance claims for homeowners
- Insurance claims for commercial property owners
- Accident claims involving automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles
- Damages caused by hail and storms
- Claims for personal injury
- Claims for Medical Payments Coverage
Due Diligence Before Payout
When you have a valid claim, it may surprise you to learn that an insurance company is investigating it so thoroughly. You might also be surprised how some companies do not investigate at all, and only look at documents that you provide them when doing their mandatory claim “investigation.” When insurance companies suspect fraud or believe a claim is being made based on an event that did not occur, they will do so. Insurance companies have no choice but to investigate even the smallest claims in today's insurance environment to ensure that they are only paying out settlements on legitimate claims. But, investigation is something that you pre-pay insurance companies to perform. And, it should benefit BOTH the insurance company and the policyholder. Insurance companies are supposed to investigate BOTH facts that support payment of claims and facts that might support denials of claims.
Often, insurance adjusters are subject to scheduling and availability issues, especially when a large number of parties have been affected by the same incident. Some insurance companies may simply be waiting for police reports or are now trying to find out who was at fault in your case. Trying to sort out which is which can be challenging, especially if you’ve never filed a claim before.
Contribute to the cause
The good news is that you can help your insurance company move forwards by doing some things on your own. It will be easier to access your accident records if you organize them and store them in one convenient location. Many insurance adjusters either forget to request documents or misplace them. In this case, you can look up and send over the necessary information yourself while on the phone with the adjuster if the adjuster replies that, "Well, we still need your medical records/police reports/statement.". The following documents should be held onto:
- Accident photos
- Adjusters' reports
- Records of medical treatment
- Estimates of repairs
- Information on how to reach witnesses
The best practice is to have all communication with insurance companies done in writing. Ideally either emails or letters. Worst case scenario, text messages can work. Talking on the phone should be discouraged. But, phone calls are the preferred method of insurance companies because when an inevitable dispute arises later on, it ends up being a he-said/she-said situation.
At an absolute minimum, it's a good idea to keep a written record of all phone conversations with company representatives, including the names and call times of those representatives. Obtain a copy of all documents on file with the agent, as well as a printout of all email communications for your own use. Get a copy of your own cell phone bill, and take screenshots of call logs, times, and text messages.
Cooperation is an option as well. If you have a claim against your own insurance company, you have a legal and contractual obligation to cooperate with it. It's critical that you give them the information they need as soon as possible. When dealing with the other party's insurer, things are a little different: they don't work for you, so you should be cautious. They will use your information to their advantage if at all possible.
Contact A Lawyer
Your insurance company's stalling could be due to a variety of factors, some of which may constitute bad faith. A simple conversation with an experienced attorney can usually clear things up.
If you live in South Dakota and suspect your insurance claims are being delayed, you can request a free consultation with Turbak Law Office.