Many people across the United States have found the advertising jingle “Nationwide is on your side” not to be true. The company has a reputation, based on the results of numerous lawsuits, for denying payments to those who had legitimate injury or wrongful death claims following a car accident.
Nationwide Cases of Bad Faith
Nationwide was certainly not on the side of one West Virginia man when it delayed paying him his under-insured motorist policy limit of $50,000, an amount for which the insured was willing to accept. The man filed a lawsuit alleging that Nationwide acted in bad faith by delaying its payment of the claim. Even though Nationwide argued it did not act in bad faith, and the delay was only to allow it time to investigate the amount of the insured’s medical expense and wage loss claim, the jury did not buy its argument.
The jury agreed with the injured party and awarded the victim $400,000 in damages to compensate him for his injury and another $200,000 in punitive damages, which were imposed against Nationwide for its bad faith actions. The injured man was also awarded $30,108.71 in attorney’s fees and litigation costs.
In another from the state of Georgia, Nationwide was ordered to pay $8.1 million to the husband of a woman killed in a car accident who had filed a claim for wrongful death. There there was no question that the driver of the other car was at fault. He pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years in prison. But, that was apparently not enough evidence to satisfy Nationwide.
They refused to settle with the widower for the policy limits of $100,000. Big mistake. The award came after a trial where the jury found Nationwide acted in bad faith by denying the claim. The award included $5.8 million in damages and $2,405,873.00 in interest.
Nationwide was still not satisfied, and appealed the award to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which upheld the award. The Circuit Court noted that the award was based on a “thorough and well-reasoned final order.”
What it Means to Sue an Insurer for “Bad Faith”
All insurance contracts have a clause saying that your insurer will at all times act in “good faith” toward you. Even if the clause happens to be missing from the contract, the law in every state imposes a duty on the insurer to deal fairly in good faith with its insured When the insurer unreasonably denies your claim for compensation, or unreasonably delays compensation, the insurer has acted in bad faith.
Often, insurers may delay payment, arguing as it did in our West Virginia example, that the delay was due to its need to investigate the claim, and not every delay in payment amounts to bad faith, delaying payment is just one of the ways insurers act in bad faith. Other examples include:
- Failing to promptly investigate the claim.
- Failing to thoroughly investigate the claim before denying it.
- Unreasonably denying a claim.
- Unreasonably interpreting the language of the policy in order to assert there is no coverage for the claim.
- Refusing to settle the claim.
- Offering far less compensation that what the claim is really worth.
If the Insurer has acted in a particularly egregious way, according to both statutory and case law, West Virginia allows the court to impose punitive damages. Punitive damages are for the purpose of punishing the insurer for its bad conduct and, hopefully to deter it from committing the same bad conduct in the future.
How We Can Help
At Johnstone & Gabhart, LLP, we work hard on behalf of our clients in order to collect all the compensation to which they are legally entitled. When insurers act in bad faith by denying or delaying compensation, or substantially reducing the amount of the claim, we are experienced and ready to file bad faith lawsuits against Nationwide or any other insurer in order to force payment.
Although every irritating act of an insurer does not amount to bad faith, if you believe your insurer has not acted in good faith, contact us for a free consultation. If you cannot come to us, we can come to you at your home or visit you in the hospital. We will review the circumstances of your claim and together, we will decide how to proceed.