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Can I sue my insurance company for mishandling my claim?

When a car accident occurs, the costs can be significant, including medical bills, damages to the car, lost work time, emotional distress, and so on. Insurance, of course, is in important resource for those involved in car accidents. Unfortunately, insurance companies are not always easy to work with, for one reason or another. In some cases, insurance companies do not deal fairly with their policyholders, and violate the terms of the policy.

What recourse does a motorist have when their insurance company does not treat them fairly, according to the terms of their policy? When it comes down to it, it is sometimes necessary to pursue an unscrupulous insurer for a bad faith insurance claim. Here in West Virginia, this may be done as a common law action or as a statutory action under the West Virginia Unfair Trade Practices Act. 

At common law, only first parties may pursue a bad faith claim, meaning only policyholders. This means that, at common law, third parties—typically those covered under the liability aspect of the insured’s policy—are not able to pursue bad faith claims in West Virginia. Either first- or third-parties may bring a bad faith claim under the Unfair Trade Practices Act, though.

To bring a claim under that statute, the claim that gave rise to the dispute has to be resolved. To successfully prove a claim, a plaintiff must show that the insurance company violated the statute more than once, that it did so in separate acts in settling the claim, and that the violations are a routine part of the insurance company’s business practices.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the topic of bad faith insurance and how an experienced attorney can help an accident victim when his or her insurance company fails to fulfill their duties under the policy.

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