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Personal Injury Professionals For Nearly 40 Years!

Thomas West: Co-Founder & Of Counsel

Thomas West is proud to have practiced law for more than 30 years, first with his law partner, Reggie Kelly, and then with his daughter Elizabeth West Murphy. Thomas’s passion and life’s work have been to have a law practice he is proud of. In 2020 he retired from the practice he built and now serves “of counsel” to the firm.

“For 30-plus years, I have strived not just to be a lawyer but to be an honest lawyer people can depend on. I work every day to make sure that my clients get the same representation that I would want if I had someone else representing me. Here at Kelly & West, it has always been our motto that we will try our best to help you. But, if we cannot help you, will try to find someone who can, and I firmly believe that we have succeeded through the years in doing just that. That’s why so many people come back to see us over and over again.”

Thomas was a 2016 recipient of the Martindale-Hubbell client distinction award. He was also recognized as a 2020 Attorney of the Year by Top 100 Registry.

He believes that he is different from other lawyers because this has been his life passion.

“It’s not just a job; it’s about faith – faith that God will give you the ability to help, faith that God will provide you with the patience and wisdom needed, faith that God will send the next client to see you. Yes, I work hard, and that’s important but working knowing my work is divinely inspired, that’s what keeps me going day in and day out.”

Also, Thomas says that one thing he is proud of is the technology the firm uses. Kelly & West proudly offers their clients the latest technology that helps manage cases and keeps each case progressing forward as quickly as

Thomas Wests' plaque from Top 100 registry

possible, and Thomas is the one behind it all.

“I love the fact that we have software that allows us not to miss opportunities to help each client the best we can. Over the years, I have handled thousands of cases, and now with technology, I can put my experience to work for each client so that we don’t miss any coverages or additional insurance policies that may be out there. Plus, technology gives us the ability to track when we receive documents and phone calls on each case, to make sure that we are aware of everything that’s going on with a particular client at all times.”

Thomas is proud that he and his loving wife, Betsy Coats West of Dunn, have been married for over 40 years. They attend Divine Street United Methodist Church in Dunn. They have two children, Elizabeth Murphy, and James West, who practices law in Los Angeles, California. He hopes to continue to serve those throughout North Carolina and especially in his local community for many years to come.

To speak with an honest and caring attorney…please contact Kelly & West at (919) 901-3125.

    What Our Clients

    Have Said...

    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.