Tennessee Bad Faith Insurance Dispute Attorneys
Holding insurance companies responsible for unfair claims practices throughout the Southeast and Midwest
Insurance carriers have a duty to act in good faith. They cannot “low ball” claims or delay payment to induce policyholders to accept a low offer. They cannot deny payment for reasons that aren’t supported by the facts or the insurance policy. On the contrary, the law requires insurance companies to conduct a fair and prompt investigation of the claim, and quickly make a fair payment in accordance with the terms and conditions of the policies. Bad faith is usually judged by the insurance company’s state of mind, and if the facts suggest that the carrier’s goal is to protect its own financial interest instead of honoring its contractual obligations, the law allows claims for “bad faith.”
At McWherter Scott & Bobbitt, our Tennessee-based bad faith insurance lawyers make insurance companies comply with the insurance policies they prepare and deliver to their policyholders. We understand the appropriate timelines for resolving insurance disputes, and we work hard to get our clients paid fairly and quickly. Our attorneys hold accountable those insurance companies who fail to comply with their legal and contractual obligations through unfair and deceptive means by demanding that they pay all appropriate sums, and fighting for additional compensation for their improper conduct.
What acts constitute bad faith?
States have different standards for what constitutes bad faith. Generally, the test is whether the insurer disregarded the insured’s interests in the handling of the claim or otherwise exhibited indifference toward the insured’s rights. This can mean delays, underpayments, wrongful denials, violations of regulatory standards, refusing to communicate, and a host of other examples. Proving bad faith can be a difficult task, requiring attorneys that knowledgeable and experienced in the field.
Some of the indicia of bad faith are:
- Failing to fully and promptly investigate
- Failing to make prompt payment
- Raising defenses or relying on exclusions that do not apply
- Refusing to pay the appropriate amount for covered loss
- Making interpretations of the policy language that are not reasonable
- Making baseless accusations in an effort to avoid payment obligations
- Failing to return phone calls, letters, and emails
- Burying an insured with paperwork or requests for documentation for no good reason
- Using biased or unqualified experts or adjusters
- Failing to make a fair settlement offer
Our Tennessee bad faith insurance attorneys seek to hold insurance companies accountable when they act in bad faith. We know where to look and what to ask for to ferret out the proof needed to properly prosecute bad faith claims. Insurance litigation is our focus and we understand the nuances and indicators of bad faith. The goal of every claim should be a fair and prompt payment, not protecting the insurance company’s bottom line. Every action we take is designed to accomplish that goal, and if the insurer engages in bad faith, we pursue every available remedy to hold it accountable.
What the law says
Every state has a different way of handling bad faith claims. Some states recognize common-law tort claims for bad faith, some states have very strict requirements and allow only statutory bad faith claims, some allow recovery under consumer protection laws, and some use a combination of all of these. To further complicate things, some states allow punitive damage claims against insurance companies and some do not. In this complex area of the law, it is critical that the attorney be experienced and knowledgeable regarding the available remedies in the particular state where the claim was made.
In Tennessee, for example, insureds have two primary options for pursuing “bad faith” claims. The first is known as a “statutory bad faith” claim, which allows for a 25% bad faith penalty when an insurer fails to act in good faith. To pursue such a claim, the law mandates that the policyholder give the insurance company the legally required notice of the claim and give them an opportunity to pay. If the legal notice requirements are not appropriately followed, a claim for bad faith will not be allowed to proceed.
In addition to a statutory bad faith claim, a policyholder may also be entitled to additional remedies, such as punitive damages, depending on the details of the specific case.