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People that have been involved in auto accidents know that it can be a very unpleasant and expensive experience. Their lives are immediately changed in many ways. Some have to deal with serious and even permanent injuries, enormous medical bills, damage to or destruction of their vehicles and the temporary or permanent inability to return to work. The physical, emotional and financial consequences are often so extreme that no amount of money they receive is considered adequate. And, to make matters worse, they often have to deal with abusive and unfair treatment by insurance company representatives. This includes abuses by representatives of their own insurance company.
Fortunately, California law provides protection from certain types of unfair business practices that insurance companies have used to take advantage of accident victims. For decades, accident victims and their Orange County auto accident attorneys documented these abusive insurance procedures and tactics and complained to the California Insurance Commission and to California legislators who finally enacted California Unfair Insurance Practices Laws. Everyone that has a claim for payment from an insurance company should become familiar with these laws or, better yet, consult with an attorney before signing a release or other settlement document.
Some of the most common insurance company abuses that are now against the law in California include:
Misrepresenting to claimants the true facts or applicable insurance provisions;
Failing to act promptly to resolve claims;
Failing to use reasonable standards for prompt investigation and payment of claims;
Failing to promptly accept or deny claims after receiving proper proof of loss documents;
Not trying in good faith to settle and pay claims promptly for a fair amount once the
obligation of the insurance company is reasonably clear;
Forcing claimants to litigate claims by knowingly offering much less than the amount requested and ultimately received by the claimant;
Telling claimants that their company appeals all arbitration awards in favor of claimants in order to pressure them to accept less that was ordered to be paid;
Failing to provide a prompt explanation for the denial of the claim;
Advising claimants not to hire an attorney;
Misleading a claimant about the amount of time they have under the law to file a lawsuit;
Failing to promptly and accurately inform claimants in writing of the legal time limit to file a lawsuit;
Discriminating in its claims settlement practices based on the claimant’s race, gender, income, religion, language, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin or physical disability
Demanding information that is unnecessary to resolve the claim dispute.
For over 20 years, California courts declared that only the California Insurance Commissioner had the right to file complaints against insurance companies for violations of the Unfair Insurance Practices laws. That has changed. A California Appeals Court issued a decision which now permits individual victims of insurance company violations to sue directly. Always consult with an accident attorney if you think that an insurance company is treating you in a way that violates the law. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®