Like a broken umbrella in a rainstorm, insurance disputes between an insurer and its policyholder can become a huge, inconvenient, and costly problem for the policyholder.
Sometimes, it might be beneficial or necessary for policyholders to hire a lawyer to protect their contractual and other legal rights. But when should policyholders involve an attorney? This FAQ provides information on determining when it may be appropriate to hire a lawyer to handle a dispute in the insurance counseling and recovery context.
Q: How can I tell if I need to hire a lawyer for my insurance dispute?
A: While there is no one simple and straightforward answer to this question that captures every scenario in which it would be beneficial for a policyholder to hire a lawyer, there are several easy to identify areas policyholders can look for. Those include:
the insurer denies your claim for any reason
the insurer threatens to terminate or deny coverage
the insurer offers less money than you feel the claim is worth
the insurer delays making payments on the claim
the insurer is not responding to your communications in a timely or responsive fashion, despite repeated requests from you
the statute of limitations is approaching, and the insurer has not fully resolved your claim
Of course, there is value in erring on the side of caution and consulting with an attorney if you are not sure whether engaging counsel for a particular issue or dispute would be helpful.
Q: What are the benefits of hiring a lawyer?
A: A lawyer can help you understand your rights and legal options. An attorney who has experience with insurance companies can also provide strategic guidance to help ensure that your claim is handled in accordance with the terms of the insurance contract and fairly and justly. Furthermore, legal representation can be beneficial in helping you secure any compensation or coverage that you may be entitled to under the policy terms.
But it's not just when a dispute arises that policyholders can benefit from hiring an attorney. Consulting a lawyer prior to applying for and purchasing a policy, shortly after, or before filing a claim can help ensure that the right coverage is obtained, help identify potential gaps in coverage, and address or otherwise head off other concerns.
Q: Can I hire any attorney to handle my insurance dispute?
A: Law is a vast field. Many attorneys may practice in multiple areas, but some have tailored experience in specific areas, such as insurance law and litigation. If your dispute involves a major or complex insurance dispute or claim, it is advisable to seek counsel from an attorney who has experience and knowledge in the relevant area of the law.
Ward and Smith's Insurance Counseling and Recovery Team is comprised of seasoned attorneys with a deep understanding of the insurance industry and trial experience. Our attorneys have built their reputations on recognizing, assessing, and helping businesses and professionals navigate their insurance questions, disputes, and complex litigation matters against their insurers.
Q: Will hiring an attorney speed up my insurance dispute?
A: Potentially, yes. An experienced lawyer may be able to help resolve the dispute quickly and efficiently while ensuring that your rights are protected. An attorney can provide strategic advice on how to proceed with your claim or dispute and help expedite the process.
Q: What to Expect When Hiring an Attorney for Insurance Counseling and Recovery?
A: Once you decide to seek legal counsel, your attorney will typically review your insurance policy and issue, assess any potential coverage gaps or exclusions, determine what the insurer should have done in regard to your claim or particular dispute, analyze all associated evidence, and advise you on a recommended strategy for handling the claim/dispute. The lawyer will also handle communication with the insurer on your behalf.
In addition to providing sound legal counsel, your attorney should also be able to explain the process in an understandable way and provide emotional support throughout the dispute resolution process.
Q: Will my insurance dispute end up in court?
A: In many cases, insurance disputes are resolved without the need to go to court through mediation or arbitration. However, there may be circumstances in which filing a lawsuit against the insurer is necessary. Your attorney can advise on when legal action is appropriate and represent your interests in court if necessary.
There are also times when insurers file lawsuits against policyholders. Those suits typically take the form of a declaratory judgment action in which the insurer asks the court to declare certain rights and obligations of the parties under the terms of the parties' policy. Our Insurance Counseling and Recovery Team is experienced in defending business and professional policyholders in those suits.
Q: Can I still hire a lawyer after filing a claim myself?
A: Yes. Even if you have already filed a claim without the assistance of an attorney. Provided you have not accepted any payment or signed any contracts indicating a full and final settlement of your claim, you can retain legal counsel to represent you at any stage of the claims process.
Q: Will my insurance drop me as a policyholder if I sue them?
A: Generally, no. Insurance companies are regulated by state and federal laws which protect policyholders from being dropped for filing a claim or asserting their rights. However, every policy is different, so be sure to discuss this with your attorney before deciding whether or not to pursue legal action.
Hiring a lawyer for insurance disputes can be beneficial in numerous ways. Whether you are looking to sign a policy, filing a claim, or dealing with a dispute, an experienced attorney can protect your rights, provide strategic advice, and ensure that you receive the fair coverage or compensation to which you are entitled.