By Gregory H. Haubrich
Attorney at Law
An insurance policy is a contract between your insurance company and you.
Policies and policy terms are regulated by the Oklahoma State Insurance Commissioner, so insurance companies cannot just write anything they want to into the contract. When the policy is violated by the insurance company, you may have a claim to enforce the terms of the policy just like any other written contract.
For example, if you have a burglary and the company fails to pay the claim or only pays part of what is owed under the contract, I would represent you in litigation to enforce the contract and make them pay what is owed for your loss according to the terms of your homeowners policy.
UM, uninsured motorist coverage, is another example of a contract between you and the company that insures your vehicles. If you are injured by a driver who has no insurance or not enough insurance, UM coverage steps in to compensate you for your injuries up to the limits of the policy. One of the nifty things about UM coverage is that it goes with the person, not the vehicle, so it will cover you if you are in somebody else’s car, or even if you are sitting on your front porch and an out-of-control car careens off the road and hits you on your porch.
An insurance company has a duty of good faith and fair dealing with its own insureds. This is implied by law in every insurance contract in Oklahoma. If there is a “reasonable dispute” about a claim or its value, the company is not in bad faith and your claim is only for the value of what is supposed to be paid under the contract. However, if the insurance company fails to fulfill its duties to you, it may be in “bad faith.” In that case I may be able to help you recover damages outside the contract, such as annoyance, harassment, mental distress, and economic losses caused by the insurer’s failure to live up to basic insurance company standards.
In many cases arising from the May 2013 tornado outbreaks in Moore, Shawnee, El Reno, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, insurers are violating their duties to people with damaged or destroyed homes.
Last week I went to see a home in Moore which has massive holes through the roof, obvious structural damage, storm water damage, and rotting insulation and fiberboard, despite the fact my clients almost immediately had the roof professionally tarped soon after the storm.
Some punk adjuster refused to acknowledge their home is a total loss. He says he knows better than a structural engineer, a public adjuster, and an architect who all agree the home is a total loss. The insurance company has offered to pay 85% of the structure’s value, but won’t total it. If they totaled the house they would also be liable for a 20% rebuilding addition. That’s actually a difference to a nice working family of about $60,000.00. They are now having to live with relatives. Their children keep telling Mom and Dad “I just want my home back.” All their toys and games and clothes are ruined.
These companies are so enormous that not matter how badly we beat them it will not affect their bottom line. However, they treat people this way because if they can do it in thousands of cases they will save millions of dollars.
This is why we have lawyers, and it is why I really really love being a lawyer, because I can put you on at least a level playing field with State Farm, General Motors, the Burlington Northern Railroad, or the United States government. That’s power. In fact, that’s just plain fun. I promise, I cannot WAIT to take the deposition of that young punk adjuster in Moore who messed up those little girls’ lives that much!
This is just one example of the types of cases I handle every day. If you would like to find out how I can assist you, please contact me today to schedule a free confidential consultation and review of your case.