Hawaii Personal Injury Attorney - Insurance Company Bad Faith Claims
   

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Insurance Bad Faith

William Lawson- Accident Attorney Hawaii
 
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Recent Personal Injury and Car Accident News and Cases related to Hawaii


On June 29, 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court rendered its decision in the case of St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance, Hi. Sup. Ct. Case No SCCQ-14-0000727 (June 29, 2015). This case arose out of a wrongful death personal injury case handled by this office which resulted in a $4.1 million verdict in favor of our clients - even though Liberty Mutual, the primary liability insurer, never offered anything even close to its policy limits of $1 million. St. Paul - who had to pay our clients everything recovered in excess of the initial $1 million - claimed that Liberty Mutual committed bad faith towards it by failing to settle within its $1 million policy limits. The Hawaii Supreme Court agreed and found that an excess insurer has claims for bad faith against a primary insurer.

 

 


Insurance Claims - Generally


There are various types of insurance coverage related to personal injury accident claims. For an overview of the types of coverage, please click here:
Types of insurance coverage



After an accident it is usually very important Hawaii (from the point of view of making a claim) to take a number of steps immediately in order to preserve evidence and document your claims. To examine these issues more closely, please visit the following page:

Inital Steps in Making Your Claim




If you wish to examine the minimum insurance coverages required under Hawaii state law for most motor vehicles and for motorcycles then you can do so at the following two links:

Auto Accidents and Motor Vehicle Insurance for Car Accidents

Motorcycle Accidents and Insurance on Motorcycles


These coverages generally should be available to help to compensate a person for loss as the result of negligent operation of the vehicle. (Optional additional coverages may also be available.)



 

Insurance Claims- Bad Faith

Insurance policies are generally purchased by policy holders to bring Hawaii Personal Injury Attorney - Insurance Claim peace of mind and security. They are supposed to provide "good neighbors" and "good hands" in time of need. Increasingly, however, insurance companies take the approach that they are profit machines for their stockholders and insiders. Claims adjusters are taught to be difficult to reach, uncooperative when finally tracked down and evasive in their responses. Claim payment is often avoided on the thinnest of excuses- with an eye toward forcing a financially weakened claimant into a position of economic desperation and obtaining a settlement which favors the insurance company. Such tactics are very common- but in an appropriate case they may give rise to an independent cause of action for bad faith.


As a general rule- claimants are precluded by the Hawaii rules of evidence from discussing insurance companies in any way during the trial of a liability insurance claim. This unfortunate situation allows liability insurers to conduct outrageous character assasination against opposing litigants while having their profit motive for such bald-faced smear campaigns obscured from the inquiring minds of jurors. In order to change this unjust situation, prompt legislative or judicial reversal of this unfair situation is required. It is imperative that such deliberate and unethical conduct by insurance companies not continue under a cloak of darkness granted because insurance companies are rich and politically powerful.


There are various types of insurance coverage related to personal injury accident claims. For an overview of the types of coverage, please click here: Types of insurance coverage


The decision of the Hawaii Supreme Court in The Best Place, Inc. v. Penn America Insurance Co. (Hi Sup Ct No. Hawaii Personal Injury Attorney - Insurer 16065, June 5, 1996) upheld claims for bad faith conduct against insurance companies under Hawaii law. When an insurer wrongfully denies benefits, the insurer may held liable for consequential damages, emotional distress damages, punative damages, attorneys fees and more. Although this decision found only that the insurer is liable for bad faith conduct toward a person who paid it for insurance coverage, the reasoning followed by the court indicates that the Hawaii courts may also recognize insurer responsibility for bad faith conduct in other situations in the future. The court referred to an implied covenant of "good faith and fair dealing".


When addressing the issue of bad faith on the part of an insurance company one Oregon case was rather specific about the requirements placed on an insurance company. In the case of Radcliffe v. Franklin National Insurance Company of New York, 298 P.2d 1002 (Or.1956) at 1020, that court stated:

"it can not be said to be bad faith to deny a claim when there is substantial evidence to support the denial. ...the minimum requirement is that the insurer must exercise good faith in disposing of settlement matters. We do not believe that an insurer displays good faith unless it gives consideration to the interests of the insured. Good faith may frequently he determined by ascertaining whose interest was deemed paramount, the insuredís or the insurerís, when the insurance company rejected an offer of settlement; in other words, whose interest was sacrificed at that time. We have taken note of the fact that a conflict of interests between the insured and the insurer presents itself when damages are sought in excess of the policy limits and an offer of settlement which approximates the policy limit is received. It is essential to know whose interest must be safeguarded when action is taken upon the offer."
At page 1024 of its opinion that court went on to say:
"The mere rejection of a settlement offer does not suffice to save the insurer harmless, nor is it sufficient to show that the insurer, in rejecting a settlement offer, had no evil purposes. Negative elements do not meet the demands of good faith. A decision by one who is ignorant of the controlling facts is worthless. Only a decision made by one who exercised due diligence in apprising himself of the material facts is entitled to respect as made in good faith."



Deadlines for Bad Faith claims against insurers

Claims for insurer bad faith arise both in contract and Hawaii Personal Injury Attorney - Deadlines in tort (personal injury). As a result the deadlines for filing insurance bad faith claims depend upon whether only contract claims are submitted (such as a request for payment of the policy benefits or a refund of premiums) or whether the more encompassing personal injury claims are also sought (such as emotional distress damages, certain types of consequential damages or punative damages). For contract claims the applicable statute of limitations is usually more than years from the breach of contract. For personal injury claims generally a 2 year deadline applies from the date of the wrongful conduct until the claims must be filed in court. You must file your claims in court prior to the expiration of such deadlines, or your claims may be lost—regardless of their merit. To be wise it is recommended that you immediately contact an attorney after an accident giving rise to injuries occurs- please do not hesitate to :

Contact Hawaii Personal Injury Attorney now for a free evaluation of your case.

What is insurer bad faith?

The Hawaii Supreme Court has found that there is a legal duty implied in every insurance contract that the insurer will act in good faith in dealing with its insured. A breach of that duty of good faith gives rise to a tort (personal injury) cause of action against the insurer which is independent of the original insurance contract claims.

It is not necessary that the insured show a conscious awareness Hawaii Personal Injury Attorney - Bad Faith of wrongdoing on the part of the insurance company or unjustifiable conduct on its part in order to assert a claim of bad faith. It is sufficient to show unfair dealing, such as an unreasonable delay in the payment of benefits, in order to recover damages suffered as a result of the insurer's conduct.

An insurer may be held liable for the improper conduct of the defense of its insured. This is true- even though it is ultimately determined that the insurer had no duty to defend or indemnify under the terms of its policy. Delmonte v. State Farm, Hawaii Supreme Court No. 21351 (February 3, 1999).

Punative damages. In order to recover punative damages- which are damages intended to punish the wrongdoer over and above the actual losses suffered by the victim- it is probable that conduct must be demonstrated which is more that just unfair dealing. To recover these damages, the insured probably must prove wanton, oppressive or malicious conduct on the part of the insurer and/or a conscious indifference to the consequences. This also may have to be proved by clear and convincing evidence- not just by a preponderance of the evidence* which is the usual standard of proof for personal injury claims.

*To "prove by a preponderance of the evidence" means to prove that something is more likely so than not so. It means to prove that something is more probably true than not true.


Further info on Bad Faith Claims

badfaithinsurance.org

 

 

Hawaii Personal Injury Attorney

William Lawson, Esq.
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Honolulu, HI 96813

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