The Duties of Insurers
There are two basic types of insurance claims in Colorado: first-party claims and third-party claims. First-party claims are claims brought against your own insurer. First-party claims often concern benefits owed to you under an auto, homeowners, commercial property, disability, or health insurance policy. More seldom, first-party claims may be brought against your liability insurer in the event it fails to reasonably defend or indemnify you against the claim of another. Third-party claims are claims brought against the liability insurer of someone else whose negligence caused you harm.
Your insurer owes you a duty of good faith and fair dealing when handling first-party claims made by you or third-party claims made against you. If your insurer fails to pay benefits owed under an enforceable policy for auto, homeowners, commercial property, disability, or health insurance, you may pursue a claim for breach of contract to recover the unlawfully withheld benefits. If your insurer unreasonably delays or denies the payment of benefits owed, you may recover statutory penalties equal to two times the covered benefit plus attorneys’ fees and costs. If your insurer acts unreasonably when handling your claim for insurance, and either knowingly or recklessly disregards the validity of your claim, you may recover non-economic damages, up to the statutory cap of $571,870, for the financial stress, anxiety, worry, and inconvenience caused by the insurer’s bad faith conduct.
When defending you against the claim of another, your insurer stands in a particular position of trust and owes you a quasi-fiduciary duty to act in your best interest. There, the insurer must reasonably investigate, defend, and settle a claim against you within policy limits if given the opportunity to do so. An insurer who fails to defend against a claim arguably falling within coverage or fails to pay a legitimate claim once coverage is clear may be sued for bad faith. The available damages in this scenario equal the amount of any judgment against you, which exceeds your liability policy limit.
The insurer for a third-party who caused you harm owes no duties to you. That insurer’s duties are to their own policyholder and include those described in the preceding paragraph.
We help policyholders recover the benefits owed to them under auto, homeowners, commercial property, disability, and health insurance policies. When our clients’ insurers fail to act reasonably in handling such claims, or unreasonably delay or deny the payment of benefits owed, we represent policyholders in bad faith litigation against the insurer to recover both contractual and extra-contractual damages.
We help policyholders who are potentially facing or already exposed to excess judgments protect themselves from their liability insurer’s bad faith conduct. Options include assigning your right to sue your insurer to the injured party in exchange for a covenant not to execute on the judgment or pursuing your liability insurer directly through bad faith litigation. We offer personal representation to policyholders in this situation to apply pressure on the insurer to get the claim settled. When settlement of the liability claim cannot or has not been achieved, we help policyholders with any appropriate assignments and represent them in litigation against the unreasonable insurer.
Third -Party Claims
We help people harmed by the negligence of others pursue third-party claims against tortfeasors and their insurers. Our goal is to work with you to maximize your recovery. We handle claims arising from personal injury, wrongful death, and damage to personal property.
We take every opportunity to settle our clients’ insurance claims fully and fairly without the need for litigation. It is, however, exceedingly rare for an insurer to pay extra-contractual damages pre-suit. Virtually all claims involving insurer bad faith require litigation. Because most insurance companies are not based in Colorado, bad faith litigation often takes place in federal court. This can be a lengthy and expensive process. Fortunately, the law in Colorado is favorable to insureds and designed to make bad faith litigation possible for aggrieved policyholders.
We typically handle bad faith cases on a contingency fee basis. Under this model, we front the costs of litigation, and you compensate us for our services only if you recover from the insurer. Notably, damages in a bad faith case may include the reasonable value of our attorneys’ fees and the costs of litigation. This financial incentive both deters bad faith conduct and makes pursuing bad faith litigation more worth your while.
Every case is different, but most cases resolve 12 – 18 months after filing. The typical life cycle of a bad faith case includes: initial pleadings by the parties; the disclosure of basic relevant information; formal discovery, including written questions to parties and depositions; the exchange of expert witness reports; dispositive motions practice to streamline the issues for trial; mediation; pre-trial evidentiary motions practice; pre-trial preparation; and trial.
More than 95% of civil cases settle before trial. Most bad faith cases settle at or following mediation. Mediation is a formalized settlement conference between the parties overseen by a third-party neutral. Although there is no obligation to settle at mediation, settlement at this point is common because the case is well-developed and can be readily valued by both sides. Whether to settle and for what amount is always your choice. Our job is to maximize value and advise you on risk. If a full and fair settlement is not obtainable, we will try your case to the jury and demand just compensation.
Communication with Hailey | Hart
H|H lawyers are directly available to you during normal business hours. Please let us know how frequently you wish to communicate with us. The lawyers will in appropriate cases offer their cell phone numbers to ensure immediate and direct access. We are ready to come on board as Your Ally and Your Advocate.