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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

New Jersey Woman Stands Up to Her Own Insurance Company’s “Bad Faith” Tactics

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Many people carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on their auto policies. The idea behind underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage is simple: If you’re injured in an auto accident – driver, passenger or pedestrian – and the at-fault driver either does not have insurance or is underinsured, you are entitled to additional payments from your own insurance company, up to your coverage limits, to help pay fully compensate for losses caused by the accident. Sadly, however, policy holders often find themselves in the fight of their lives with their own insurance company.

Just because you have uninsured/underinsured coverage does not mean your insurance company is going to pay your damages without question.   After all, insurance is the only product/service I know of that penalizes you for using it exactly the way you are supposed to. The goal of insurance companies is to collect as much as possible in premiums and pay out as little as possible in benefits, despite how good your payment record is, despite how accident free you have been in the relationship.  And, in this case, this is also true, despite how much you have purchased in uninsured or underinsured benefits from your own carrier.  Insurance companies would rather have happy shareholders than happy customers.  Besides, we have been “trained” (more like indoctrinated) to accept the worst from our insurance companies and be surprised when they do something that they should have done in the first instance.

For example, your insurance company may attempt to say you are at least partially at fault for the accident or you weren’t as injured as you claim, that you are “faking” or, worse, are guilty of fraud.. In other words – file an uninsured or underinsured claim against your own insurance company and you may find that you are not in “good hands”, that you will not get “fast fair and friendly service”, that they are not “good neighbors”, that they are not “on your side”, etc.

A New Jersey woman sustained permanent damage to her spine and neck when the vehicle she was driving was rear-ended by an uninsured driver in April 2013. The accident was deemed to be the fault of the uninsured motorist. The woman had uninsured coverage with Allstate for up to $250,000. She filed a claim with the company, but Allstate denied the claim forcing her to file a lawsuit against her own carrier (insurance customers have to do this far too often to collect the benefits they deserve and that their premium dollars have paid for).  After she sued, Allstate offered $50,000 to settle the dispute.  The woman refused; the offer was too low. Allstate’s attorney argued, in court, that the woman should receive nothing. This decision forced the case to trial. Earlier this month, a jury awarded the woman $1.2 million.  According to the woman’s attorney, the judge is now determining whether Allstate acted in bad faith by forcing the woman to go to trial.

Suffering a personal injury in an auto accident is bad enough, but when your own insurance company refuses, in bad faith, to negotiate or settle the claim, the victim is forced to fight for his/her rights.

This is another prime example of an insurance company putting their bottom line over their obligation to honor their contracts of insurance.  In this case, we are talking about Allstate, but bad behavior is not limited to this despicable company.  Policyholders pay Allstate and the rest of the bad industry players billions each year in the form of premiums to protect them from a risk, but where is the protection when needed? When you file an insurance claim, by law, the insurance company owes you a duty to act in “good faith.” Good faith does not mean avoiding an obligation to pay a claim in a timely manner or force years of litigation. Insurance companies should not get away with “bad faith” practices; more lawsuits like this one are being fought and won**.

If you believe that your claim has been unfairly denied or that the insurance company has acted unreasonably, do not simply let them push you around. Don’t be afraid to stand up to the insurance companies and stand up for your rights.  If you feel you can’t go it alone, hire a lawyer. Your actions could benefit not only you, but others who have been wronged by the powerful insurance companies. Without holding these companies accountable, they will continue to take advantage of injured citizens/customers.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

** but not in my own state of Michigan where our Republican controlled legislature eliminated “bad faith” as a tool to hold insurance companies accountable.  Query:  Why do our citizens continue to vote against their own economic interests?