Not every accident or injury gives rise to a personal injury legal claim. A legal claim requires an injury caused by the negligent conduct of another person, property owner, or even a local, state or federal government. Car crashes are the most common cause of personal injury, but others include being struck as a pedestrian or on a bicycle, dog bites, slip and falls, defective products, assaults, failure to protect or warn of a known dangerous condition.
Damages for personal injury are categorized two ways; economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are out of pocket costs and may include medical expenses, property damage, past and future lost wages, mileage traveling to medical appointments. Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, mental anguish, past and future disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.
Determining the damages and extent of harm a person suffers as a result of a personal injury is unique to each case and set of life circumstances. No two claims are exactly the same. Consequently, every person’s injury claim requires a complete understanding of the client’s individual story. Our attorneys and staff are sensitive to the uniqueness of each case and the individual preparation required.
Our firm has handled a wide array of injury and property damage claims.
“Sometimes it feels as if the only thing that purchasing insurance actually ensures is that one will eventually have an unpleasant dispute with the insurer over payment on a claim.” – Great West Casualty v. National Casualty (7th Cir. 2004)
Insurance touches our lives in many different ways. For example, health insurance, disability insurance, homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, car insurance, professional liability insurance, and many others. Insurance claims are often properly paid in a timely manner. When they are not, consulting an insurance attorney may be helpful.
Steve Chance has more than 25 years of experience dealing with the wrongful delay or denial of insurance claims. Insurance policies are contracts. More precisely, they are what are known in law as contracts of adhesion. That means that there is no negotiation of the terms of the contract, it is written entirely by the insurance company and the insured takes it as written. If a dispute arises over the meaning of the policy, the law requires any ambiguity in the policy be read in favor of coverage and against the insurance company since they drafted it. In other words, if the policy can reasonably be read two different ways, one affording coverage and one excluding coverage, the consumer always gets the benefit of coverage.
When an insurance company improperly denies payment of a claim, they have also breached the contract exposing them to liability for the claim itself and for damages for breach of contract. The law in Washington is now well established that when an insured is forced to hire an attorney and file suit to obtain the benefit of their insurance policy, the insurance company is held responsible for all attorney fees and costs incurred to establish coverage, in addition to paying the claim.
Washington law also recognizes the Efficient Proximate Cause rule in determining the cause of loss. This means one must look to the originating event leading to the loss, rather than the most immediate cause. Causes of loss are not always as they appear at first glance. Property claim denials should always be analyzed in accordance with the efficient proximate cause rule. Even when an excluded peril contributes to a loss, it will not circumvent the efficient proximate cause to exclude coverage when the precipitating cause is a covered loss.
Each type of insurance presents its own unique opportunity for conflict with the insurance company. The Law Offices of Steve Chance has the experience and expertise to sort out questions of insurance coverage and to assure the insurance company treats you fairly.
Insurance Bad Faith
Insurance claims handling is highly regulated by the State of Washington. Enforcement of insurance trade practice regulations is by the Washington State Insurance Commissioner and the courts. The following are some of the trade practice regulations which are per se proof that an insurance company has engaged in bad faith and acted in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act:
- Failing to acknowledge and act reasonably promptly upon communications with respect to claims arising under insurance policies.
- Refusing to pay claims without conducting a reasonable investigation.
- Failing to affirm or deny coverage of claims within a reasonable time after proof of loss statements have been completed.
- Every insurer shall complete investigation of a claim within thirty days after notification of a claim unless such investigation cannot reasonably be completed within such time.
Washington’s insurance code, RCW 48.01.030, reads in part:
“The business of insurance is one affected by the public interest, requiring all persons be actuated by good faith; abstain from deception, and practice honesty and equity in all insurance matters.”
Washington law imposes a broad duty of good faith and an affirmative obligation to give equal consideration in all matters of the insured’s interests. Equal consideration means the insurance company may not place its interests above those of its insured. For example, an insurer may not deny coverage based on speculation or a supposed defense which a reasonable investigation would have shown to be without merit.
Under Washington’s Insurance Fair Conduct Act, if an insurance company is found to have acted in bad faith, the insurance company can be forced to pay up to three times the value of the claim.
The Law Offices of Steve Chance has a proven record of forcing insurance companies to pay what they owe, and proving in court when insurance companies have acted in bad faith.