Proposed Changes in NJ Insurance Law May Level the Playing Field for Policyholders
The obvious purpose of carrying any type of insurance is to avoid or reduce out-of-pocket costs resulting from injuries or other damages sustained in a variety of circumstances. In many cases, claims proceed efficiently but some insurers respond to claims in bad faith, using unfair practices to delay, reduce or deny valid claims. Under current New Jersey law, the cards are stacked against insurance policyholders who file bad faith claims against their insurers. However, proposed changes to the law may help claimants pursue the compensation they deserve.
To get bad faith insurance case accepted by the courts, policyholders must prevail on a summary judgment. Even if they win, the insurance company can argue that the law or facts of the case make the coverage question fairly debatable. This puts policyholders at a disadvantage. According to a March 2013 article published by JD Supra Law News, the proposed changes to the law would address the fairly debatable issue by allowing plaintiffs to prove only a specific violation of at least one prohibited practice. Prohibited practices include the following:
- Misrepresenting policy provisions or facts
- Delaying acknowledgement and response to claims
- Refusing claim payment without reasonable investigation
- Using the information in the advertising materials that accompany policy applications to justify the reduction or denial of valid claims
- Forcing policyholders to resort to litigation by offering substantially less than the benefits recovered during litigation
Insurance claims typically provide individuals with a means for pursuing damages without taking extensive legal action. However, there are times when the insurance claim itself becomes contentious. In many cases, an experienced New Jersey bad faith insurance lawyer can get claims back on track by intervening directly with the insurance company. In other cases, your attorney can turn to the courts to help protect your rights.