Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Managing Editor & Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jan 24, 2012

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It is not unusual for an insurance company to limit or even deny coverage of a claim without proper justification or warning. Not every act of an insurance company with which you disagree is bad faith, but if you have been treated unfairly and have been denied coverage or a reasonable settlement, you mayhave a case for bad faith against your carrier.

The question is, how do you know? You can always file a complaint with your state’s Department of Insurance, but only by hiring a qualified attorney who specializes in insurance bad faith will you be able to get expert advice about whether the insurance company’s actions fall within the definition of bad faith, and whether you have a case. Recognize that state, not federal law regulates insurance practices so no uniform definition exists for insurance bad faith. An experienced attorney in this field knows the law in your state, and will be able to assist you.

In the United States, the general rule of law holds that each party pays its own attorney fees. This is referred to as “The American Rule,” and differs from the English Law, which requires the responsible party to pay the fees for both sides. Some states, however, have judicially created exceptions to the American Rule, one of which allows the wronged party in an insurance bad faith lawsuit to be granted attorney fees as part of the award. For example, such exceptions exist in New York, Pennsylvania and Utah. An experienced attorney will be able to tell you whether attorney fees will be included as part of the award in your state.

In bad faith case where the American Rule applies, most attorneys will work on a contingency fee basis. That means they will take a percentage of the settlement or award as their fee. Make sure that you fully understand how the fees are to be paid before you hire legal counsel.