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Your Teenager Has Gotten a Ticket. What Should You Do?

For any North Carolina driver, a ticket for a moving violation, such as speeding, running a red light, or not stopping for a siren, is an expensive mistake.  Having to pay hundreds of dollars in fines and court costs is aggravating enough.  But the resulting increase in insurance premiums over at least the next three years will likely add up to many times more than that.  

In addition to those costs, pleading guilty or being convicted will add points to the driver’s record by the Division of Motor Vehicles.  The number of such points accumulated over time may lead to the suspension or revocation of the driver’s license.

Tougher For Teenagers

If your teenage daughter or son has gotten a ticket, the stakes are even higher, both in total costs and the risk of losing driving privileges.

Because 16-19 year-olds are more likely to have accidents than any other age group, the initial cost of auto insurance is higher than for older drivers.  As a result, when the insurer adds a percentage surcharge to their premiums based on a moving violation, their insurance costs are increased by more.

A 16 or 17-year-old driving with a North Carolina Provisional License may have that license suspended for any two or more moving violations within 12 months, even though the total points added to their driving record for such violations would not cause suspension of a full license.  And any single moving violation may delay their eligibility to obtain full driving privileges once they are 18.

What a Traffic Attorney Can Do to Help

An experienced traffic attorney knows the Judges and the Assistant District Attorneys that will handle your teenager’s case and the police officers involved.  

The attorney also knows the system and what can be done to get the charge dismissed or negotiate it to a less severe charge.  This can help minimize or eliminate DMV points and the impact on insurance premiums and lessen the chances that your teenager’s license will be suspended or revoked.

So, if your teenager has gotten a ticket for a moving violation, don’t try to go it alone.  Contact our team at Kelly & West.  In our nearly 40 years of experience, we’ve defended our clients in hundreds of traffic ticket cases involving teenage drivers.  We can guide you through the process and help you achieve the best outcome possible.

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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.