What is Bad Faith?

When a client has uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage it is part of our job at Laskin Balma Attorneys at Law in Sacramento California to make sure we pursue those claims if the third-party case settles for policy limits. There is the idea out there that it is easier to deal with your own insurance company and that they should just hand over the remaining “new money” on a policy because they want to keep their insureds happy. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

You are not in good hands, they are not like a good neighbor, and you can’t rely on them to take care of you. At the end of the day, your insurance company is still an insurance company and they make money by taking in premiums and NOT paying out claims. They answer to shareholders like all insurance companies do and it is not easy to negotiate with them.

However! There is a wonderful tool attorneys can use to make sure your insurance company treats you the way you ought to be treated. They cannot just disregard you or make you wait forever on a claim that should be obviously paid out because that behavior will open them up to a bad faith claim.

Bad faith is when an insured sues their own insurance company for putting the company’s own interests above the insured’s interest. McCormick v. Sentinel Life Ins. Co., 153 Cal. App. 3d 1030 (1984) even ensures that a substantial delay without reason is enough of a breach of the covenant of good faith between an insurer and their insured to bring a claim.

The fact is that insurance is mandatory in this country. We are not allowed to own or operate vehicles without it. We are forced to rely on these companies to handle claims when accidents do happen and because of that reliance, those companies have a duty to look out for the interests of their insureds. When they fail in that duty, they open themselves up to a bad faith claim.

Just such a case came up in our Sacramento law office of Laskin Balma last week. Our client had over $50,000.00 in medical bills and needed two surgeries that would cost another $35,000.00. The third-party had a policy of $50,000.00. We settled that part of the case and then proceeded to pursue our client’s Underinsured motorist coverage, which was only an additional $50,000.00 (because his policy was $100,000.00 minus what he received from the adverse driver).

Originally, our client’s insurance company only offered $5,000.00 “new money”. In a case that should have been open and shut, we spent a year on discovery, flew to Los Angeles for a deposition of our client and a second time for his doctor’s deposition, and had to issue an Offer to Compromise pursuant to Civil Code Section 998, but we got the full $50,000.00 policy.

Every day the insurance company did not pay our client, they made money earning interest on the money sitting in their bank account instead of sitting in our client’s bank account. It is unconscionable how they treat their own insured and you better believe we are pursuing a bad faith claim.

Feel you have a bad faith case? Contact the law offices of Laskin Balma in Sacramento California today.