Thank you so much for your prompt response. In order to buy some time, I am thinking of calling the plaintiff's attorney and asking for a 60 day extension in hope of getting an answer from the insurance company. Is it OK to do this or will there be any negative effect with the insurance company. The best case scenario is for them to defend the claim, if they deny it at the end of that period then we have no choice other than to accept the default judgement. Can we file a bad faith claim if we get a default judgement or do we need to file it before the judgement. The whole legal situation is a bit overwhelming and something I would rather avoid, if possible
An insurance company has many duties to its policyholders. The kinds of applicable duties vary depending upon whether the claim is considered to be "first party" or "third party." A common first party context is when an insurance company writes insurance on property that becomes damaged, such as a house or an automobile. In that case, the company is required to investigate the damage, determine whether the damage is covered, and pay the proper value for the damaged property. Bad faith in first party contexts often involves the insurance carrier's improper investigation and valuation of the damaged property (or its refusal to even acknowledge the claim at all). Bad faith can also arise in the context of first party coverage for personal injury such as health insurance or life insurance, but those cases tend to be rare. Most of them are preempted by ERISA.
Third party situations break down into at least two distinct duties, both of which must be fulfilled in good faith. First, the insurance carrier usually has a duty to defend a claim (or lawsuit) even if some or most of the lawsuit is not covered by the insurance policy. Unless the policy is expressly structured so that defense costs "eat away" at the policy limits, the default rule is that the insurer must cover all defense costs regardless of the actual limit of coverage.
Second, the insurer has a duty of indemnification, which is the duty to pay a judgment against the policyholder, up to the limit of coverage, but only if the judgment is for a covered act or omission. As a result, most insurance companies exercise a great deal of control over litigation.
Bad faith can occur in either situation—by improperly refusing to defend a lawsuit or by improperly refusing to pay a judgment or settlement of a covered lawsuit.
In some jurisdictions, like California, third party coverage also contains a third duty, the duty to settle a reasonably clear claim against the policyholder within policy limits, in order to avoid the risk that the policyholder may be hit with a judgment in excess of the value of the policy (which a plaintiff might then attempt to satisfy by writ of execution on the policyholder's assets). If the insurer breaches in bad faith its duties to defend, indemnify, and settle, it may be liable for the entire amount of any judgment obtained by a plaintiff against the policyholder, even if that amount is in excess of policy limits. This was the holding of the landmark Comunale case.
Bad faith is a fluid concept and is defined primarily by court decisions in case law. Examples of bad faith include undue delay in handling claims, inadequate investigation, refusal to defend a lawsuit, threats against an insured, refusing to make a reasonable settlement offer, or making unreasonable interpretations of an insurance policy.
In some cases, the tort or the governing state statute allows punitive damages against insurance companies as a mechanism to prevent future behavior.
In California, the plaintiff in a bad faith action may be able to recover some of its attorneys' fees separately and in addition to the judgment for damages against a defendant insurer, but only up to the extent that those fees were incurred in recovering tort damages (for breach of the implied covenant) as opposed to contractual damages (for breach of the terms of the insurance policy). The allocation of attorneys' fees between those two categories is usually a question of fact (meaning it usually goes to the jury).
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