The purpose of this blog is to offer insights to both lawyers and non-lawyers about insurance bad faith in Oklahoma. The blog will offer commentary on the practical and legal aspects of the interaction between a policyholder who makes a claim under his or her insurance policy, and the insurance company that must then decide how to handle and ultimately resolve the claim.
From a practical standpoint, policyholders who have suffered an insured loss often find themselves in dire need of their insurance company’s best effort to quickly and fairly resolve the claim. Policyholders buy insurance for peace of mind and protection, hoping they never have to use it. When they have a claim, it is because some misfortune has befallen them, whether it be to their property, their business or even their health. Their home has been damaged or destroyed, their car has been wrecked or stolen, they have been injured in an accident, they need medical treatment for an injury or illness, a loved one has died, and so on. This is when a policyholder hopes their insurance company, to whom they have paid premiums with their hard-earned money, will be there to live up to its end of the bargain.
From a legal standpoint, Oklahoma law provides that insurance companies owe their policyholders a duty of good faith and fair dealing when handling claims. It also provides significant legal rights and remedies to policyholders when an insurance company does not live up to the duty of good faith and fair dealing. To put it simply, an insurance company must do right by its policyholders when they make claims under the insurance policy. For example, an insurance company must read the policy fairly, investigate and evaluate the policyholder’s claim fully, and pay or deny the claim promptly, without unreasonable delay. If the insurance company fails to do any of these things, it is in “bad faith” and can be held accountable in court.
There has been a great deal of insurance bad faith litigation in Oklahoma (and many places around the country) for decades. A normal person who has not had an unpleasant experience with an insurance claim would likely not have any idea this is true. In fact, many lawyers who have not had experience handling insurance bad faith cases know very little about how the law in this area works. I certainly don’t say this to be critical, because there are more areas of law than I can count that I am not qualified to practice. But, I do know something about insurance bad faith because it has been one of the main focuses of my practice for the vast majority of my 24 years practicing law.
I am launching this blog to attempt to pass along some of what I have learned (sometimes the hard way) about insurance bad faith lawsuits in Oklahoma. I’m hopeful that non-lawyers and normal people who may be involved in claim disputes with their insurance companies, or who are just curious about the reality of how the insurance industry interacts with the public can benefit from this blog. I also hope that lawyers who do not practice in the area of insurance bad faith can take something away from this blog that might enhance their law practice in some fashion. I even hope that lawyers who practice in this area will read this blog with interest and maybe even learn something from my viewpoint.
I have never written a blog before, so I hope I can make this one informative and entertaining enough for folks to pay attention. I’m excited to give it a try. I hope to receive some interesting and thought-provoking comments on these posts, and I am happy to answer questions.