Insurance Archaeology

Understanding Bad Faith in Insurance

Ben Pariser


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Navigating the complexities of insurance can be daunting, and the process becomes even more complex when dealing with insurance companies that don’t play by the rules. Bad faith insurance occurs when insurers fail to deal with their policyholders fairly and lawfully. It’s a situation that can arise in various scenarios, including environmental remediation. This article aims to help you understand the concept of bad faith insurance, ilflustrating its importance across multiple contexts and its role and implications for business owners facing environmental remediation.

What is Bad Faith in the context of Insurance?

Bad faith occurs when an insurer fails to fulfill its duties to policyholders in a fair and reasonable manner. When you purchase an insurance policy, you enter into an insurance contract where your insurer agrees to act in good faith – meaning they promise to handle claims with integrity and in a reasonable amount of time. This could include timely communication, fair claim investigation, and honoring legitimate claims. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and policyholders should be aware of their rights in these situations.

Situations of Bad Faith by Insurance Companies

Understanding bad faith practices by insurance companies is key for small business owners. Let’s look into specific scenarios where insurance companies may act in bad faith, the implications of their actions, and what to watch out for in each situation.

Unfair Denial of Valid Claims

One of the most prominent examples of bad faith insurance is the unfair denial of a claim. Insurance companies may deny a claim without a valid reason or fail to explain their decision satisfactorily. This can quickly leave policyholders in a bad position, especially when relying on these funds to pay for damages. Suppose your insurance company denies your claim without a valid reason or satisfactory explanation. In that case, it’s important to challenge their decision, demand a clear justification, and seek legal advice, as they may be acting in bad faith and violating the policy terms.

Unreasonable Delays

Another common issue is unreasonable delays in handling claims. Insurance companies are expected to process claims promptly. When they intentionally drag out the process, it can create financial and operational difficulties for businesses. This tactic can be particularly harmful when immediate action is needed. If you’re experiencing an unreasonable delay from your insurance company, document all your interactions and request a clear timeline for resolution immediately. If unresolved, consider consulting an insurance professional or legal counsel and, if necessary, file a complaint with your state’s insurance regulatory agency.

Lack of Communication

A lack of clear and consistent communication from an insurer can also indicate bad faith. When insurance companies fail to respond, update on claim status, or provide essential information, it leaves you in the dark and unable to make informed decisions. Good faith practices require open and timely communication, and its absence can be challenged as a bad faith practice. Similar to unreasonable delays, if you’re experiencing a lack of communication from your insurance company, it may constitute bad faith. Document every attempt to contact them, seek guidance, and consider filing a bad-faith claim with your state’s regulatory agency.

The History of Bad Faith Insurance and Environmental Remediation

The concept of bad faith emerged alongside growing environmental awareness in the mid-20th century. Initially, insurance policies, including those covering environmental liabilities, were designed with a mutual good faith understanding between insurers and policyholders. However, as environmental concerns became more prominent and remediation costs rose, insurers increasingly engaged in bad-faith practices, such as unfairly denying claims or delaying payments.

The legal recognition of bad faith insurance coincided with significant environmental legislation, such as the United States’ Clean Water Act (1972) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, 1980). 

These laws increased liabilities for environmental damages, leading to complex interactions between businesses, insurers, and regulatory agencies. Landmark legal cases during this period began to define bad faith practices more clearly, especially in the context of environmental claims.

The evolution of bad faith insurance practices directly impacted policyholders dealing with environmental remediation. Insurers’ reluctance to honor policy obligations for environmental cleanup costs led to many prolonged legal battles and financial strain, highlighting the need for stronger regulation and legal recourse against bad-faith practices.

As the complexities of environmental remediation and insurance liabilities grew, the role of insurance archaeologists began to play a crucial role in uncovering historical insurance policies that could cover environmental liabilities. This process often revealed instances where insurers had engaged in bad faith practices, denying or minimizing coverage for past environmental damages.

Today, bad-faith insurance practices and environmental remediation remain critical for policyholders. Historical perspectives help understand companies’ challenges in securing coverage for environmental liabilities. It highlights the ongoing need for expert insurance archaeologists and legal advocates who ensure insurers fulfill their obligations and support essential environmental cleanup efforts.

The Role of Insurance Archeologists in Leveraging Bad Faith

As insurance archaeologists, we play a unique role at the intersection of historical insurance policies and funding for pollution cleanups. Our work goes beyond uncovering old insurance policies. We critically analyze how these policies insured properties and assist our clients and their legal counsel in obtaining coverage without litigation and avoiding the potential for bad-faith actions to take hold.

Unearthing Historical Policies

We begin by tracing and recovering historical insurance policies, often decades old. This historical documentation is crucial, especially for long-term issues like environmental remediation, where coverage may span several policy periods. Once these policies are located, we examine the insurer’s behavior over time regarding these policies.

Leveraging Historical Policies in Claims

Understanding the history of a policyholder’s insurance coverage allows us to develop Coverage Strategy and work with our clients legal counsel to tender good faith claims effectively.

Advocacy and Protection for Policyholders

Ultimately, our role in leveraging historical insurance policies is to protect our clients and obtain coverage that is rightfully owed by the insurance carrier(s). We ensure insurers are held accountable for their obligations to the policyholder. This accountability is essential for any property owner facing the daunting task of environmental remediation, as it can make the costly cleanup financially viabile.

Always Be Sure Your Insurance Company Acts in Good Faith

Navigating the intricacies of insurance claims while managing the demands of environmental remediation is overwhelming. Understanding bad faith insurance practices and recognizing when an insurer may not be acting in your best interests is crucial. More importantly, leveraging the expertise of Restorical Research can be a game-changer in securing funds for environmental remediation. As you steer your business through these complex waters, remember that knowledge and expert assistance are your best allies.

We are not attorneys, this is not legal advice. 

Ben Pariser

One of Ben’s favorite parts of insurance archeology is knowing Restorical is making a difference, helping to clean up the environment one polluted property at a time while also changing people’s lives.


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