Wisconsin statute says that insurance companies are required to pay amounts that are not disputed within 30 days. Frankly, though, very few insurance companies do that. However, if they don’t, we can bring a claim for interest within a court case. We do that frequently, especially in situations where there is no question that the amounts owed are set for expiry, and the insurance company has simply chosen not to pay them. The rate of interest is quite good. It is 7.5% a year. There is an incentive for the insurance companies to pay what is not in dispute but interestingly they very rarely do.
Q: If they have delayed long enough that the statute has run, is there any hope for that person or is the insurance company off the hook?
Sadly, we have had people come to us after the statute of limitations has run — where they simply ran out of time. Whether or not there is any hope for the person depends on different circumstances and factors.
Q: When does a delay or denial rise to the level of bad faith?
In order to have a bad faith claim, you have to have a first party insurance relationship — there has to be somebody who owes you a duty of good faith. Your own insurance company owes you a duty of good faith. If you are a passenger in a car where, for example, you have uninsured motorist coverage by virtue of the coverage of the driver, they owe you a duty of good faith. The circumstances giving rise to bad faith vary widely. They can be as mundane as refusing to pay things that ought to be paid, delaying payment, providing various reasons for non-payment or demanding information not relevant to non-payment. But all of those issues really depend on what they’re doing in your case that causes them to refuse to pay.
Q: Let’s talk about government agencies. Is there any government agency I can go to for help if I am having trouble with my insurance company?
In Wisconsin, it is the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance who hears complaints. Candidly, going to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is not likely to solve your car accident insurance problems. Going to a skilled lawyer who is willing to put your case into a lawsuit might. You can go and make complaints, but you really need a lawyer to help you solve the question of whether or not you should get paid. You also need a lawyer who’s willing to go to trial and put your case in suit, especially if you’re getting abused by an insurance company.