Court of Appeal Upholds Bad-Faith Damages Award Against Insurer in Central Louisiana Auto Accident

When you’re injured in an auto accident, there are many challenges and difficulties you’ll face. First and foremost, there is simply recovering from your injuries. Hopefully, you won’t face the added stress of an insurance company that owes you payment on a claim but doesn’t pay. However, if that does happen, the law may give you certain options for damages against that insurer for bad faith. In the recent case of one injured woman, the Louisiana Court of Appeal upheld a finding of bad faith and an award of damages in her favor.

Ewell and his wife, Lee Ann, were driving in Alexandria when another vehicle struck theirs. The other driver had been trying to change lanes and, in the process, hit the couple’s car. The wife was injured and transported to a nearby hospital. The accident left the wife with back, neck, and significant hip pain. The wife underwent additional tests, and an orthopedic surgeon diagnosed a labral tear in the woman’s right hip, requiring surgery to treat. Another doctor, a radiologist, had reviewed the wife’s case but did not diagnose the tear.

The couple settled their claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer for the policy limit of $25,000. Since the wife’s damages were far more than that $25,000 amount, though, the wife pursued a claim with her own insurance under the policy’s underinsured motorist coverage, which had a policy limit of $30,000. The insurer, however, didn’t pay.

Eventually, when the couple brought their lawsuit, one of the claims they asserted accused their insurer of bad faith for failing to pay. The evidence the couple had presented to the insurance company clearly showed that the wife suffered well in excess of $55,000 in damages, meaning that the insurer had no good-faith basis for refusing to pay, they argued. The trial court agreed, awarding the couple $15,000 in additional damages, $30,000 in penalties, and $20,000 in attorney’s fees.

The insurance company appealed, but the couple still prevailed. Louisiana law requires insurers to pay valid claims on a timely basis. If an insurer fails to pay a claim in a timely manner after the insurer has received “satisfactory proof of loss,” the law allows courts to award penalties and attorney’s fees. Establishing this “satisfactory proof of loss” means showing that the other driver was uninsured or underinsured, that the other driver was at fault, that the accident caused the injuries, and the extent of the damages created by those injuries.

In this case, the couple had enough proof to meet that legal standard. The couple sent their insurer the police accident report, a copy of the settlement check they got from the other driver’s insurer, and that insurer’s declaration sheet on liability, along with the wife’s medical records, her medical bills, and the cost estimates of her hip surgery. The couple’s ability to provide this extensive documentation to the insurer and ability to prove to the court that they did so only helped to strengthen their case.

The insurance company tried to argue that it couldn’t be found in bad faith because there were conflicting medical diagnoses. The mere existence of one other other doctor’s opinion failing to identify a torn labrum was not enough. The insurance company never communicated to the couple that it disputed the orthopedic surgeon’s opinion, and it never asked for an independent medical exam. In light of those facts, the insurer wasn’t allowed to escape liability for bad faith based solely on the radiologist’s opinion of no tear.

Your auto accident case will create several hurdles for you. You’ll need to face many challenges and accumulate substantial evidence in order to succeed. These hurdles only increase if you face an insurance company that is wrongfully failing to pay you. This is one of many reasons why you need experienced injury counsel on your side, fighting for you. The diligent Louisiana uninsured motorist accident attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm have been helping people injured in accidents fight for what’s due to them.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.
More Blog Posts:
Will Auto Insurance Cover a Driver with a Suspended License?, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, June 29, 2017
(Not) Having Cake and Eating It: Louisiana Insurance Company Not Allowed to Receive Premium Payments, Then Deny Coverage, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, April 11, 2017

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