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Kelly & West News

When and How Often Should I Update My Will?

November 18, 2019 family of man, woman, daughter

In general, review your Will every three to five years to make sure everything is still accurate. There are also a few situations in life during which you need to tell your lawyers to make changes to this legal document. 

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5 Misconceptions about Lawyers and the Law — and the Truth about Lillington Lawyers

May 15, 2019 The Harnett County Courthouse.

Most attorneys are committed to helping their clients navigate a complex system. Have you heard any of these misconceptions about lawyers?

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When is a Pedestrian at Fault in a Car Accident?

April 23, 2019

Typically, when we think about accidents between a vehicle and a pedestrian, we assume the driver is probably at fault. However, from a legal standpoint, that is not always the case. There are times when the pedestrian is at fault or assumes at least partial responsibility in a vehicle-pedestrian accident.

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Mistakes that Hurt Your Workers’ Compensation Case

May 29, 2019

Worker’s compensation is there when you get hurt at work. But applying for this payment is not the easiest process. A lot of people get hurt or sick due to work and later ask about workers’ compensation only to find out they don’t qualify — but only because of the timing or some other error.

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How To Prepare For Your First Court Appearance

March 20, 2019 first court appearance tips

Learning what to expect during your first court experience will help you stay calm throughout the process and help you avoid unnecessary nervousness.

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5 Reasons You Should Conduct A Title Search

March 11, 2019

When you’re in the market to buy a house, you keep hearing “title search” but first-time homebuyers may not feel entirely certain of what that means.

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What to Do If You’re in a Motorcycle Accident in North Carolina

April 11, 2019

If you find yourself in a motorcycle accident and are injured, go to the hospital and get the necessary medical treatment and take photos of your injuries as soon as possible. It is best not to discuss how the accident occurred with the insurance adjuster.

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Uninsured Motorist Policy: Why It Pays To Have One

February 13, 2019

Uninsured motorist coverage helps you pay for damages, including injuries you or your passengers suffer, caused by a driver who doesn’t have car insurance.

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What to Do if You’re Hit by a Drunk Driver

January 11, 2019

It’s unwise to drive while intoxicated, but what if you are sober and a drunk driver injures you? Thankfully, you can file a personal injury lawsuit.

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Merry Christmas from Kelly & West!

December 11, 2018

Merry Christmas from Kelly & West!! We hope you have a great holiday season!

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    What You Should Know About Bad Faith InsuranceYour insurance company is legally obligated to deal with you “fairly and in good faith.”  When you file insurance claims, such as claims for bodily injury and/or property damage under your auto policy, that good faith obligation is tested.  After all, the insurance company’s bottom line and your best interests are at odds.  The more claims a company denies and the less it pays o claims it accepts, the more profit it makes.  But you’ve paid your premiums and deserve to be fully compensated for your losses up to the limits of your coverage. 

    Most often, insurance companies investigate and administer claims professionally, deny only those claims they reasonably believe are invalid, and attempt to evaluate and settle valid claims fairly.  Sometimes, they get it wrong, even though they have acted fairly and in good faith.  When that’s the case, the policyholder can file a breach of contract lawsuit and go to trial to recover the compensation to which he/she is entitled under the policy.  

    If the insurance company does not act fairly and in good faith, the policyholder has grounds to file an insurance bad faith lawsuit and, if successful, recover not only what is due under the policy but also either punitive or multiple damages.  Here is what you should know about bad faith insurance lawsuits in North Carolina.

    What Laws Support an Insurance Bad Faith Lawsuit?

    In North Carolina, there are two sources of insurance bad faith law, state statutes and common law (court decisions).  A policyholder can file an insurance bad faith lawsuit based on either or both, but where the court determines that both apply, the policyholder must elect to recover under one or the other.

    Statutory Insurance Bad Faith

    Under the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, a policyholder can recover “treble damages,” three times the amount of any damages caused by the insurance company’s “unfair” or “deceptive” behavior.  Such behavior is not limited to, but definitely includes, any of the fourteen “unfair claim settlement practices” defined in a section of North Carolina’s insurance statutes.  

    Among those unfair claim settlement practices are:

       *     misrepresenting pertinent facts or policy provisions relating to the coverages at issue,

       *     failing to acknowledge and act reasonably promptly upon communications with respect to claims,    

       *     refusing to pay a claim without conducting a reasonable investigation of all available information,

       *     failing to affirm or deny coverage of claims within a reasonable time after proof-of-loss statements are completed,

        *     forcing the policyholder to resort to litigation without attempting to settle in good faith,

        *     attempting to settle a claim for  less than a reasonable man would have believed he was entitled,

         *     failing to promptly settle claims under one coverage where liability is reasonably clear (e.g., property damage claims) in order to influence settlement of claims under another coverage (e.g., personal injury claims) and

         *     failing to promptly and reasonably explain the basis in the policy or applicable law for denial of a claim or the offer of a  compromise settlement.

    Common Law Insurance Bad Faith

    In addition to liability based on those North Carolina statutes, North Carolina courts have held that an insurance company is responsible for bad faith wrongdoing when it refuses to pay policy benefits after receiving and recognizing a valid claim or otherwise acts solely in its own interest, provided, that there must also be some “aggravating” or “outrageous” misconduct by the company that harms the policyholder.  Such additional misconduct has been described as including “fraud,” “malice,” “gross negligence,” “willful and wanton conduct,” or “reckless disregard.”  Those can be difficult to prove and have to be considered and determined based on the facts in each case.  

    The theory in the bad faith case decisions is that a judgment awarding the policyholder only what is due under the policy (for breach of contract) does nothing to discourage the insurance company (and other insurers) from engaging in such bad behavior when responding to future claims.  Under those circumstances, the court’s judgment may also require that the company pay the policyholder punitive damages that may be much higher than the value of the original claim or the policy limits.

    Should You Consider Filing an Insurance Bad Faith Lawsuit?

    North Carolina does not recognize a claim for bad faith against someone else’s insurance company.  Also, your insurance company may treat you “fairly and in good faith” yet still deny your claim in whole or in part.  When it accepts liability, it may still honestly and reasonably disagree with your calculation of your covered losses.  

    As you should understand, based on this very brief introduction to the applicable law, distinguishing between good faith (though rigorous) and bad faith insurance company conduct is difficult and can only be done on a case-by-case basis.  It requires the kind of analysis that can best be done by an experienced attorney.  

    Our attorneys at Kelly & West have helped hundreds of clients with their insurance claims.  If you have filed a claim and feel that your insurance company is ignoring you, unnecessarily delaying its response or otherwise treating you unfairly, you are welcome to contact us at Kelly & West and arrange for a free consultation.