You’ve been in an accident and the other driver has no insurance or too little coverage. Thankfully, you’ve got uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (“UM”), but then the insurance company refuses to pay your claim even though you have coverage. Here at Smiley Law Firm we handle cases like these all the time, and while there are some steps to take to get your claim paid, we are here to help.
Louisiana requires insurance companies to investigate and pay an uninsured motorist claim within 30 days of the claimant providing satisfactory proof of loss. The 30-day window does not start until the claimant provides such proof. This places a heightened burden on the claimant to provide enough information on the UM claim, but it also puts pressure on the insurance company to pay the UM claim once the basic proof requirement is met.
The Louisiana Supreme Court established the standard of proof necessary for an insurance company to pay out a UM claim in McDill v. Utica, 475 So.2d 1085 (La. 1985). The Court said that “satisfactory proof of loss” under La. R.S. 22:658 means “that which is sufficient to fully apprise the insurer of the insured’s claim.” The insured claimant must show they provided the insurance company the following facts needed to appraise the UM claim:
- The operator or owner of the other vehicle in the accident was uninsured or underinsured.
- The other vehicle was at fault in the accident.
- Damage arose from that fault.
- Establish the extent of the damage.
If the claimant can show that the insurance company received enough information to establish the above four points, then the insurance company must pay the amount of any claim due to the insured within 30 days. The heightened burden on claimants in Louisiana means that the time period for the insurance company does not start until the claimant provides satisfactory proof of loss.
The failure of the insurance company to make payments with this timeframe after receiving satisfactory proof of loss can trigger penalties for the insurer. Under R.S. 22:1973 and/or R.S. 22:1892, if the failure to pay on time is found to be arbitrary, capricious or without probable cause then the insurance company must pay:
- The amount of the loss;
- Additional 50% damages on the amount due, or $1,000, whichever is greater; and
- Reasonable attorney’s fees incurred.
If the insurance company makes a partial payment, then they must pay 50% of the difference between the amount paid and the amount due, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees.
Dealing with insurance companies can be difficult for anyone, especially in UM cases. Typically, the insurer will do everything they can to pay as little as possible. Having a Louisiana insurance bad faith lawyer in your corner can make all the difference. Here at Smiley Law Firm, we’ve helped hundreds of claimants to win against insurance companies. Contact us today and mention this blog post and we will waive our consultation fee.