Good Communication Pays
Bad faith accusations commonly start with a lack of communication. Let’s face it, insurance adjusters are busy people with numerous competing demands, deadlines, and people wanting their time and attention.
The expectations of the policyholder or insured are not met and he doesn’t understand the reason. The expectations may be entirely unreasonable. The policyholder tries to “even the odds” by hiring an attorney and accusing the insurer of breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing in the adjustment of the claim or in other words, “bad faith.”
With good communication, a rational insured can accept the legitimate differences of opinion as to the value of a vehicle or the amount necessary to rebuild a house following a fire. Disputes over value usually escalate to the bad faith realm when the expectations of the policyholder and the realities of the market place aren’t clearly communicated.
Why do communications fail? Sometimes it is because the insured is also busy. People have jobs, children, weddings, band practices, funerals, soccer, and a variety of other things in their lives. When you add an insurance claim to the mix, there isn’t time for another responsibility. Telephone calls from the adjuster are not returned, letters go unanswered, and requests for information are ignored. The adjuster doesn’t have enough information to make a decision or isn’t given the time to explain the reason for the decision. Experienced adjusters realize it is important to document their attempts to call the insured and wisely write letters detailing their attempts.
Communication also fails because some people just aren’t as warm and friendly as others. Many insureds are somewhat intimidated by the process of speaking to an adjuster about their insurance claim. The lack of confidence takes the form of defensiveness or sometimes total refusal to cooperate. The end result is the same, failed transmission/receipt of needed information.
Keep in mind the importance of good communication by remembering the last time you were in a hurry and ordered a burger and fries, but got a fish sandwich with tater tots. Because you were pressed for time, you drove off unhappy with your purchase. You expectations weren’t met. On a slower, less stressful day, you probably would send the food back through the window and accept the cashier’s apology. Insureds miss a lot of what they are told because they are in a hurry. Telling them the important stuff, verbally and in writing, helps get the message across to them. It also documents the facts and position of the insurer.