What to Expect When Your Insurance Claim Requires a Lawsuit, Part I
It’s happened before, and it will happen again: insurance companies deny a claim leaving you, the insured, with the daunting task of having to file a lawsuit in order to find suitable compensation for your loss. While there are a myriad of reasons that require you to take the next step and seek legal representation, the most common is that your claim may have been denied or underpaid and negotiation has proved unsuccessful.
There are two questions, by far, that we’re asked the most throughout the filing process: “How long is this lawsuit going to take?” and “Can you hurry this up?” The answer to each of these questions is really the same for almost every insurance claim that requires litigation and, unfortunately, it has little to do with the actual facts of your claim.
“How long is this lawsuit going to take?”
Determining an adequate timeline for your case depends primarily on your insurance company, their representative responsible for making decisions regarding your claim, and their attorney(s).
When the time comes to file a lawsuit based on your insurance claim, the only factor that we definitively know is what company insures you. Based on our experience and the number of lawsuits we’ve handled, we may have a sense of that company’s general strategies in litigation before your lawsuit is filed, although a timeframe is far from definite at this point.
Some insurance companies are likely to try to evaluate the facts of your claim specifically and try to reach an early and reasonable settlement. Many of those same companies, if they feel they have a viable defense and that there should be no coverage for your claim will either offer a nominal settlement figure (often referred to as “cost of defense” or “nuisance value”), or defend the lawsuit vigorously until they learn why your claim is valid.
And then, there are insurance companies that choose to defend all claims and lawsuits against them vehemently. This strategy can be incredibly frustrating if you have a valid claim and are living with the reality of your loss until an outcome is reached. When an insurance company employs this tactic it is incredibly disheartening to many. But be aware that this tactic is often viewed as an attempt to discourage plaintiffs from continuing their lawsuit (and quite possibly to force the acceptance of low settlements).
Once your lawsuit is filed and served on your insurance company, a representative from their company is assigned to the case and an attorney is hired to defend them. Between the representative and the attorney, decisions are then made to conduct additional investigation, defend your claim, or attempt a settlement based on what is currently known.
Communications between our office and the attorney defending your insurance company often provide some insight into which of those options have been chosen, but it is not always clear. It is ultimately your insurance company’s decision whether or not they’d like to try to settle your claim. And short of a full trial, the length of time your lawsuit will take is heavily dependent on the actions of your insurance company.
Our strategy for litigating your insurance claim is often reactive to the strategy employed by your insurance company and their attorney, and is always based on the facts and strengths of your insurance claim.
If your insurance company is not ready to settle your claim or does not want to settle your claim, that usually gives rise to the second most common question we’re asked, “Can you hurry this up?”
We’ll address speeding up the process, in Part II of this post. If you have any questions about the timing of your lawsuit or when to file, contact us today.