Last month, a string of tornadoes tore through parts of Oklahoma, leaving devastation in its wake. At least three deaths have been confirmed in the eight-to-fifteen estimated tornadoes. The same storm cells also spawned tornadoes and powerful storms in Iowa, Kansas, and Illinois.
Oklahoma authorities have reported that Cole, south of Oklahoma City, was one of the worst-hit areas in the state. Historically, May is the busiest month of Oklahoma’s tornado season, so people across the state need to prepare for even more tornadoes forecasted in the coming weeks. Insurance companies will also be bracing for a large increase in storm damage claims from homeowners, which always raises the concern for more incidents of insurance bad faith.
What is Insurance Bad Faith?
Insurance bad faith is a term used to describe a situation in which an insurance company fails to fulfill its duty to act in good faith toward its policyholders. In the context of storm damage claims, insurance bad faith can occur when an insurance company unreasonably denies, delays, or underpays a valid claim for damages caused by a storm or tornado.
Examples of bad faith conduct may include:
- Intentionally misrepresenting the terms of the policy.
- Failing to investigate the claim thoroughly.
- Offering an unreasonably low settlement.
- Refusing to negotiate in good faith.
- Denying a storm damage claim without valid reasoning.
Although it is not guaranteed to happen, it is likely that some or many homeowners affected by the recent tornadoes could encounter insurance bad faith. When there are hundreds or thousands of property damage claims filed in a short span of time, such as after a spat of tornadoes, some insurance companies tend to deny, delay, or undervalue claims without due cause and to try to spend less money on policy payouts.
Reacting to Storm Damage Insurance Bad Faith
If you suspect that your insurance company is engaging in bad faith practices when handling your storm damage claim, there are several steps you can take to protect your rights:
- Review your policy: Carefully review your insurance policy to ensure that you understand the extent of your coverage and any exclusions or limitations that may apply.
- Document everything: Keep detailed records of all communications with your insurance company, including phone calls, emails, and letters. Be sure to document the date, time, and content of each communication.
- Get a second opinion: Consider hiring an independent appraiser or contractor to inspect your property and evaluate the extent of the damage. This can provide you with an objective assessment of the damage and the projected costs of repairs.
- File a complaint: If you believe that your insurance company is acting in bad faith, you may want to file a complaint with your state insurance department or regulatory agency.
- Seek legal advice: You may want to consult with an insurance bad faith attorney as soon as you receive a denial letter. In some cases, it even makes sense to talk to a lawyer before filing. They can advise you on your rights, help you negotiate a fair settlement, or represent you in court if necessary.
Dealing with a storm damage claim can be a stressful and overwhelming experience when the aftermath of a tornado has already made life much more complicated. Taking these steps can help protect your rights and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve, though, especially when you are backed by a professional attorney or law firm.
Fulmer Sill in Oklahoma City is here to offer our legal counsel and emotional support to anyone who has been impacted by a storm or tornado in Oklahoma. If you are worried about how to file a storm damage claim or homeowners’ insurance claim after a tornado, please call (405) 433-7414 now. We can help you with initial filings, as well as if your claim was already filed but denied. Initial consultations are free and confidential, so click here now to schedule one. Thank you.