Most people think their insurance company, or another person’s insurance company, will step up to the plate and do the right things if they suffer a loss. After all, they paid their premiums on time, they have an insurance policy, why wouldn’t the insurance company pay for that roof or water damage? Why wouldn’t their insurance company pay them the value of all their worldly possessions lost in a house fire? Why wouldn’t an insurance company pay for you to have an attorney if you are sued? Why wouldn’t a stranger’s insurance company take your claim seriously? Simply put, because insurance companies are not in the business of paying out claims. Insurance companies are in the business of collecting premiums and not paying out claims.
At their core, insurance policies are just a contract between you and an insurance company. Without fail, those contracts are complicated documents filled with confusing legal jargon. They are also filled with terms and conditions that must be strictly complied with before an insurance company will accept coverage for a claim.
However, in Kentucky, an insurance company has a duty to deal fairly and in good faith with their customer or anyone who makes a claim against their customer’s policy. If they fail to do so, the insurance company can be held liable for money damages in excess of the policy limits for their bad faith conduct. But, without a competent attorney to hold it accountable, an insurance company will look for ways to deny or devalue a claim.
For example, most insurance policies require the holder to provide notice of a loss or claim within a certain period of time. We recently encountered a client with a leaky roof and a policy with a 6-month reporting period. A roofer identified the cause of the damage as being hail related. Although the client contacted their insurance company within weeks of first noticing the leak, their claim was denied on the basis that the most recent hail event in the area occurred 8 months before the leak was noticed. Instead of immediately seeking legal advice, the person waited, without realizing the terms of the policy required them to file suit within one year from the date the Insurance Company denied the claim. This person came to us more than one year after the Insurance Company denied their claim and there simply wasn’t much we could do to help.
Or, take for example a recent client who owned an apartment building. This client hired a contractor to replace the building’s roof. The contractor incorrectly tarped the roof after removing the shingles and heavy rains caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. The client’s insurance company denied coverage because the damage was caused by a third-party he hired and the company took the position that the client would need to recover from the contractor. After careful review of the policy, we determined the client’s insurance company was correct and we made a claim against the contractor’s insurance company.
The contractor’s insurance company employed a common tactic of acknowledging coverage but fighting bitterly on the value of the claim. Luckily, this client contacted one of our attorneys on the day of the loss and carefully followed advice that made it virtually impossible for the insurance company to force him into accepting a low-ball settlement offer. After intense and fact specific negotiations, the client received a significant amount of money that covered his damages.
If you suffer a loss you believe should be covered by an insurance company, don’t let your rights to a good faith negotiation be trampled. The attorneys at Skeeters Bennett Wilson & Humphrey have the knowledge to tell you whether there is coverage for your claim and the experience necessary to make sure the insurance company accepts responsibility for your claim. Contact us today for a free consultation.