The American Association for Justice ranks the ten worst insurance companies in America (2008). Based on reams of court documents, papers uncovered during litigation, trial testimony, state insurance department complaints, government records and news accounts of insurance company practices, the AAJ’s study is detailed and comprehensive. The following ten insurance companies made the list:
1. Allstate 2. Unum 3. AIG 4. State Farm 5. Conseco 6. Wellpoint 7. Farmers 8. UnitedHealth 9. Torchmark 10. Liberty Mutual
A detailed explanation as to why each insurance company made the list is contained in the article. However, for the sake of brevity, let’s just say that if you have suffered an insurable loss, you may not want to be in the “good hands” of Allstate and with neighbors like State Farm, you may want to live out in the country-miles from any neighbors.
Insurance “bad faith” describes a tort claim that an insured person may have against an insurance company for its bad acts. Under Georgia law, and the law of most jurisdictions in the United States, insurance companies owe a duty of good faith and fair dealing to their insured. This duty is often referred to as the “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing” which automatically exists by operation of law in every insurance contract. If an insurance company violates that covenant, the insured person (or “policyholder”) may sue the company on a tort claim in addition to a standard breach of contract claim. The contract-tort distinction is important because as a matter of public policy, punitive or exemplary damages are unavailable for contract claims, but are available for tort claims. The end result is that a plaintiff in an insurance bad faith case may be able to recover an amount larger than the original face value of the policy, if the insurance company’s conduct was particularly egregious.
Insurance company bad faith occurs in a variety of settings. Some insurance companies systematically deny claims or force their insureds to accept low ball offers. Others retain high-priced consultants to train their adjusters on how to increase their rate of claim denials and lower the amount of money they pay out to the insured on each valid claim.
There are a number of Georgia and federal laws in place to protect against these type of unlawful insurance company business practices and they offer the insured policy holder a great deal of legal support. If you have been dealing with an insurance company and suspect that they are acting in bad faith, you should consult with a qualified business attorney to properly evaluate your case.
Robert J. Fleming is an experienced business trial lawyer. In addition to a law degree, Mr. Fleming has earned an MBA in finance, has acted as general counsel to a number of businesses, has successfully litigated many large fraud cases and has a successful business background. This unique set of experiences and skills has enabled Mr. Fleming to achieve record successes in this area.
If you would like to discuss your case with us, please call Robert J. Fleming, at (404) 923-7497 or contact us online. We are here to help.