Consumers and businesses are often mistreated by insurance carriers. This insurance fraud is often described in the law as "bad faith" (termed after the "covenant of good faith and fair dealing" that is implied by law in every insurance contract). Some examples of this insurance fraud include:
- An insurance company that denies am insured benefits that are due under their policy.
- An insurance company that attempts to unjustifiable offer less monies than are due under the policy.
- An insurance company that unreasonably delays payment to an insured. (This delay can be due to inadequate investigations by the insured, oppressive acts of claims adjusters, or other coercive tactics).
- All these actions frustrate the insured's right to receive their proper benefits under the contract to compensate for their losses. These tactics are actionable in tort and often justify punitive damages.
California insurance fraud liability originated in a series of landmark decisions in the California courts. The Aitken Law Offices has spearheaded several of these decisions. One of these decisions, Neal v. Farmers Ins. Exchange (1978) 21 Cal.3d 910, involved an insurers attempt to coerce the insured into settling an uninsured motorist claim. Wylie Aitken, representing the Plaintiff, argued that Farmer's practices were unreasonable and malicious. The jury agreed and awarded Plaintiff $1,500,000 in damages. The Supreme Court of California upheld this verdict. This case has since been the leading case on bad faith law and the standard for punitive damages.
The Aitken Law Offices has been involved in several multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in the area of insurance fraud. For example, in one case, Plaintiff's insured their home with a major Insurance Company. Unfortunately, a fire damaged about 80 percent of Plaintiff's home and personal property. Several delays occurred and when the bids came in to repair the house, a $500,000 discrepancy came in between the bid of the Plaintiff's contractor and those of the insurance contractors. The family claimed it was unreasonable for Defendant to offer only the basic policy dwelling limit when it had known shortly after the fire that the loss exceeded that limit. The family claimed that Defendant delayed and failed to properly investigate the claim. The jury agreed. The jury awarded over $17 million to Plaintiff including $15 million in punitive damages. Counsel's "Claims Manual" Helps Secure Punitive Damages Against Insurer