You count on your insurance company to pay fairly when you have a claim. After all, you paid your premiums the entire time. Unfortunately, too often, insurance companies deny claims unfairly. They hope you’ll give up, or that you won’t know how to fight back.
But you can fight back. You can file a bad faith insurance claim. Once you’ve made the decision to file the claim, it’s important to go about it in the right way.
At Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC, our attorneys offer skilled, professional and tailored legal service. We are experienced in representing individuals in bad faith insurance claims. Let’s talk about how to file a bad faith insurance claim in South Carolina.
5 Steps to Filing a Bad Faith Insurance Claim in South Carolina
1. Determine the wrongful act
Beginning a bad faith insurance claim begins with identifying the wrongful act that constitutes bad faith. South Carolina Code § 38-59-20 identifies a list of acts by an insurance company that constitute improper claim practices. Examples of bad faith may include:
- Knowingly misrepresenting facts or coverage
- Not acknowledging communication promptly
- Not investigating and settling claims reasonably
- Failing to settle a claim promptly, fairly and equitably when liability is clear
- Forcing someone to bring a lawsuit to get reasonable payment
- Offering too little in a settlement
- Invoking defenses or rescissions to discourage a claim
- Other unreasonable delays and failures
Once you have identified the wrongful act, you may proceed to prepare your bad faith claim.
2. Identify losses
South Carolina law allows you to claim compensation for several types of losses that may arise from insurance company bad faith. You may claim compensation for:
- The amount due under the policy
- Additional losses and damages that you have because of the unreasonable failure to pay
- Punitive damages if the defendant acted recklessly or willfully
- Attorney fees
When you’re the victim of insurance bad faith, you don’t receive the amount you deserve. Plus, it’s possible that failing to get paid timely brings additional expense. You also have the cost of your attorney. South Carolina law allows you to pursue all these damages. Determine what they are, and you will know what you are suing for in your bad faith insurance claim.
3. Learn about breach of good faith and fair dealing
What is a bad faith insurance claim? What legal action is it specifically? In most cases, you will file a legal claim for breach of contract, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
The elements of the breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing are:
- Existence of a mutually binding contract (an insurance contract)
- Refusal by the insurance company to pay a claim
- Bad faith – an unreasonable action that breaches the requirements of good faith
The documents that you prepare should lay out the cause of action for bad faith, as well as for breach of contract if you plan to include it. You must prove all elements of the claim. In addition, the defense typically claims that there was an objectively reasonable basis for denying the claim, and you must be prepared to refute it.
4. Prepare a complaint
To start a bad faith insurance claim, you must file a summons and complaint in the appropriate court. You may have pursued internal appeals and a demand letter directly with the insurance company. While important, by themselves, these things are not a formal bad faith insurance claim. You must file a complaint in the court with jurisdiction to formally begin your claim.
5. Beware of the statute of limitations
As you prepare to file a bad faith insurance claim, remember that South Carolina imposes a three-year statute of limitations. You have three years from the wrongful act to start the case. That may be earlier than when the case is closed or the last contact with the insurance company.
Don’t wait to begin your case. The complaint must be filed before the statute of limitations expires, or the insurance company can ask for a quick dismissal of the claim.
Lawyers for Filing Bad Faith Insurance Claims
The Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC Attorneys at Law file bad faith insurance claims on behalf of individuals, families, businesses and organizations. We are invested in the success of each client and committed to excellence in the legal profession. Contact us today for a review of your case and to learn how we can help you file a bad faith insurance claim.