Insurance companies are in business to make money. While you are their client and pay for their promise to protect you in the event of a loss, paying money on damage claims hurts an insurance company’s bottom line. Most consumers presume that if they pay their premiums, an insurance company will treat them fairly when they submit a claim. But in all too many cases, an insurance company will violate its fiduciary duty to its insured and act in a manner, which is beneficial to the insurer and not its policyholder.
While an insurance company can always choose to deny your claim, there are steps to take when filing your claim that will make it less likely that your claim will be denied. Also remember that The Bennett Law Firm offers a free consultation to help you get the compensation you deserve. When it comes to submitting a damage claim to your insurance company there are a few things you should know:
- You should hire your own contractor to evaluate any property damage and to be present when the adjuster examines the property. This will help you evaluate the merits of a denial before it even occurs.
- File your claim quickly and absolutely within 30 days
- Know what you are covered for and what your deductibles are before you file the claim.
- Have detailed documentation on everything regarding damage. such as before and after photos if you can provide them.
- Provide only accurate paperwork to the insurance company free of mistakes.
If your homeowners insurance company denies your claim despite these steps, here is what you should do next:
- Just because the company says no, do not accept no for an answer. Less than one percent of people who file a claim challenge a denial, yet fifty percent of those who do question the decision and fight back get results. Ten percent of claims are unjustly denied. If your claim is legitimate and you question the denial, there is a good chance that you will get a denial reversed or even end up with a better settlement.
- Get the reason for any denial of your claim from the insurance company. Request a written comprehensive explanation for why your claim is being turned down.
- Once you receive the reason for the denial, you should carefully review your policy with the reason for denial in mind. If it appears that the rationale and policy provision does not support the insurance company’s position, then outline the discrepancies in a written letter back to the insurance company. This may lead the company to re-consider the claim or at least provide further explanation.
- Don’t give up. You should call your insurance provider every 2-3 weeks and politely insist that you speak to a supervisor. You should keep track of all of your phone conversations. Track the date, time and names of the people with whom you speak. After each phone conversation, you should send out a letter recapping the phone conversation. You should summarize your disagreement with the company’s position and request a written response within 14 days. It is important to keep copies of all letters and send them by certified mail with a return receipt. If you don’t get a response, you should keep calling the insurance company.
- You should file a claim with the Oklahoma Insurance Department and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). It is important to understand that it is highly unlikely that the insurance company will change its position based on your complaint filed with the Oklahoma Insurance Department or BBB. Your insurance company may seek to have the matter resolved through arbitration. However, the damages awarded in arbitration are typically far less than in a bad faith lawsuit. Insurance companies know that arbitration awards are far less than civil court verdicts, which is why the insurance company may even have an arbitration clause in your insurance policy. Neither entity can really compel the company to honor your claim. You also cannot recover for your emotional distress or punitive damages unless you file a lawsuit for bad faith.
- When the methods above fail, and more often than not they will, you should hire an experienced Oklahoma bad faith insurance attorney. Sometimes simply retaining an attorney is enough to persuade an insurance company to re-evaluate its position and settle the claim. If you insurance company continues to be unreasonable, our experienced insurance bad faith attorneys may even file a lawsuit for bad faith and seek the full measure of your damages including property loss, attorney’s fees, emotional distress and punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish your insurance company for violating its duty of good faith and fair dealing.
It is important to keep in mind a couple of myths often perpetrated by the insurance industry. Many people believe that if they file an insurance claim their insurance premiums will increase. With the exception of an at-fault driver in an insurance accident, your insurance company rates will not typically increase simply because you file a claim. If you file multiple claims in a short period of time, however, this may result in the cancellation of your policy.
Our Oklahoma insurance bad faith attorneys fight for Oklahoma residents who are the victims of unscrupulous and unethical tactics of insurance companies. If your insurance company refuses to handle your claim in a reasonable professional manner, our experienced Oklahoma bad faith insurance attorneys can help.
Feel free to schedule a free consultation online or call The Bennett Law Firm at 405.272.0303 to discuss your legal options with an experienced Oklahoma City lawyer today. No Recovery, No Fee! We will meet with you face to face and can handle cases anywhere in Oklahoma. We can even come to you!