Washington State Auto Accidents: Bad Faith Insurance Practices

It's no secret that insurance company practices of denying and delaying automobile accident claims occur nationwide. However, Washington State residents now have a bit more ammunition when it comes to insurance bad faith practices from Allstate, Farmers, State Farm and others.

Washington State insurance company practices

Matt Menzer, a Washington auto accident attorney who’s been practicing law and representing plaintiffs for over 20 years in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death and other areas, says that lawyers who are experienced in the field recognize that some Washington State insurance companies are more difficult to deal with than others. He explained:

Insurance companies such as Allstate, Farmers and State Farm can be the most difficult to deal with. These are actually some of the most short-sighted companies as they do their best to limit the payout on claims up front in the hopes that some people will settle early or not insist on getting a fair, reasonable settlement.

Often times, these are the same companies that end up in needless litigation and where, in the end, plaintiffs can end up receiving significant trial verdicts and even awards of attorneys' fees. Here in Washington, we’re fortunate to have a very proactive Insurance Commissioner and statewide regulations which set out guidelines for the way that insurance claims should be handled.

Washington bad faith insurance practices are actionable

About a year and a half ago, a new law was enacted in Washington that allows insured persons who have suffered losses in accident cases to bring claims against insurance companies for unreasonable claim practices. Menzer told us that, under these claims, an injured person can be awarded treble (triple) damages and attorneys’ fees if the insurance company does not follow the state’s fair practice regulations. He continued:

These regulations, for example, require the insurance companies to respond to claims in a timely fashion, and if they’re going to deny a claim, they must set forth the reasons for the denial, reference to the policy provisions and explain how those provisions apply to the facts of the case.

If you can show bad faith or unfair conduct by the insurer under these regulations, you can have a separate claim against the insurance company regardless of how the underlying claim is resolved. So, these regulations and the real threat of new and separate claims help keep the insurance companies in line. However, even with those regulations and the real threat of additional litigation, some insurance companies still persist and just make it as difficult as possible to settle the claims on a reasonable basis.

What is reasonable?

We asked Menzer whether insurance companies have to settle car accident claims within a certain period of time in Washington. He answered:

Washington State insurance regulations are fairly strict with regard to property damage claims such as damaged automobiles and there are actual time limits set forth in the regulations regarding the fair resolution of those kinds of claims. So if your car has been damaged or wrecked, there are deadlines for the insurance company to process those claims, particularly if their insured is responsible. However, on the bodily injury portions of the same auto accident claims, there aren’t those kinds of specific time limitations.