Pennsylvania Car Insurance Companies have a duty to handle claims in Good Faith and if they don’t and it can be proven that they acted in Bad Faith by putting their own interests ahead of their policy holder, it can cost them – bigtime.
A Bad Faith situation came up recently for one of my car accident clients. I represented a family who were driving in Chester County when a driver who was drunk at 3 p.m. turned left in front of them causing a nearly head-on collision at significant speed.
Luckily, the husband/father passenger and two young children who were in back seat carseats only suffered relatively minor injuries. However, the wife/mother who was driving the car suffered a fractured elbow and other traumatic injuries which negatively impacted her life for more than a year.
Although the Car Insurance Company for the drunk driver agreed that the collision was her fault, when it came time to pay fair compensation to the injured victims, it made ridiculous low ball offers. Most notably, the compensation offered to the driver with a broken elbow and bumps and bruises from head to toe was only $5,000.
Pennsylvania Law provides that the Insurance Company has a legal duty to fairly evaluate the claims and offer compensation to the injured parties within the coverage limits to try to prevent the responsible driver from being sued and losing personal assets. If it can be shown that the Car Insurance Company negotiated in Bad Faith and improperly put its insured’s assets at risk, then the Insurance Company can be held liable for damages.
In my client’s case, I viewed the $5,000 offer as insultingly low and alleged that it was Bad Faith conduct. I also immediately sued the drunk driver and told her Car Insurance Company that I intended to try the case and recover a Six Figure Verdict against the drunk driver.
Then, the case got really interesting when I learned that the drunk driver had the Pennsylvania Minimum amount of Liability Insurance which provided only $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident of coverage. What that meant is that the Car Insurance Company had decided to risk its insured’s personal assets in a foolish attempt to avoid paying my seriously injured client only $15,000. This was a terrible mistake.
Fortunately for my client and the drunk driver, who were facing a lengthy lawsuit and long emotional trial at the end of the lawsuit, the lawyers for the Car Insurance Company acknowledged the foolish conduct of the Car Insurance Adjuster and Insurance Company and agreed to pay $75,000 to my injured client.
So, what should have been a $15,000 claim for the Car Insurance Company turned into a $75,000 claim because of its Bad Faith conduct. To get out of the Bad Faith claim they had to pay an extra $60,000!
I believe that there are a few lessons to be learned. First, that you can’t necessarily trust that an Insurance Company will do the right thing after a Car Accident. Second, that sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and insist on what’s right, even if it involves a fight, because being assertive and aggressive can pay off.
In the end, I was pleased to be able to put the Car Insurance Company in its place for its Bad Faith Conduct and to win an extra $60,000 in compensation for my client despite the drunk driver’s low insurance coverage.
Tim Rayne is a Pennsylvania Car Accident Attorney who has offices in Kennett Square and West Chester Pennsylvania. Tim has been helping victims of Car Accidents receive fair compensation from insurance companies for over 20 years. In 2015, Tim was named as a Top 100 Lawyer in Pennsylvania by Super Lawyers and as one of the Top Personal Injury Attorneys in the area by Main Line Today. For more information or to learn how Tim can help you after a Pennsylvania Car Accident, contact Tim Rayne at 610 840 0124 or [email protected]