Insurance Bad Faith and Disability Law

  1. The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers
    Austin Mehr of Mehr, Fairbanks & Peterson Trial Lawyers received an invitation on July 17, 2017, to The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyers. As stated in his invitation: “Membership in The National Trial Lawyers is by invitation only and extended to those attorneys who exemplify superior qualifications, trial results and leadership in their respective state based upon objective and uniformly applied criteria.” 
    Congratulations, Austin!

  2. Kentucky Supreme Court Reaffirms Standard for Insurance Bad Faith
    In Hollaway v. Direct General Ins. Co. of Miss., 497 S.W.3d 733 (Ky. 2016), the Kentucky Supreme Court addressed the first substantive insurance bad faith case to come before it in ten years.  In the September 22, 2016, decision, the Court affirmed a summary judgment granted by Fayette Chief Regional Circuit Judge Thomas Clark, who had found an absence of evidence of bad faith on the part of the insurer.  The Court had no trouble agreeing with Judge Clark, who had found that liability for the disputed parking lot fender bender that gave rise to the claim was never reasonably clear.  Without clearly proving liability for the accident, or the injuries stemming from it, the plaintiff could not prevail on a claim of bad faith, which requires that an insurer be obligated to pay under the terms of the policy.
    There are three key takeaways from Hollaway. Most importantly, the Court rejected the idea that a claimant must prove an “evil motive” on the part of the insurance company.  As practitioners who have litigated insurance cases know, the phrase “evil motive” has been an oft-quoted line by insurers arguing that a plaintiff has failed to prove that they had acted with evil intent.  Second, the Court also dispelled the notion that a bad faith claim could only lie if the claimant proved that liability for the accident was “beyond dispute.”  The Court of Appeals had used the “beyond dispute” language in its lower decision in Hollaway, but the Supreme Court did not adopt the “beyond dispute” standard.  Instead, the Supreme Court discussed whether there was a “genuine dispute as to liability,” and whether “fault for the accident [was] debatable.”  Finally, the Court’s decision reaffirmed that third-party bad faith claims under the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act are viable in Kentucky when there is proof of “recklessly indifferent” conduct on the part of an insurer.  This harkens back to one of the first discussions of the bad faith cause of action by the Kentucky Supreme Court in Federal Kemper Ins. Co. v. Hornback, 711 S.W.2d 844, 846 (Ky. 1986) (Liebson, J., dissenting) (adopted by Curry v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co., 784 S.W.2d 176 (Ky. 1989)), where the “reckless disregard” standard was first discussed.
    Given the facts of the Hollaway case, the result reached by the Court to affirm the grant of summary judgment is what one might expect.  What’s important is that the Court reinforced the long-held “reckless indifference” standard while clarifying that seemingly higher standards of “evil motive” and “beyond dispute” are not required.
  3. Austin Mehr to Speak to the Marshall County Bar Association
    On Monday, August 15, 2016, Austin Mehr is scheduled to speak to the Marshall County Bar Association about insurance bad faith law in Kentucky. The seminar is at 12:00 p.m. in the Marshall County Judicial Building, Grand Jury Room, 80 Judicial Drive, Benton, KY.
  4. Austin Mehr to Speak to the Jessamine County Bar Association
    On August 3, 2016, Austin Mehr is scheduled to speak about Insurance Bad Faith to members of the Jessamine County Bar Association. The seminar is scheduled to begin at 12:00 p.m. at the Polvino Family Art Center located at 109 South Main Street, Nicholasville, Kentucky. Kentucky CLE credit of 1.0 hour is available for the seminar's attendees.
  5. Austin Mehr Scheduled to Speak to the Pulaski County Bar Association
    On July 29, 2016, Austin Mehr is scheduled to give a seminar on Insurance Bad Faith to the members of the Pulaski County Bar Association. Austin's vast legal experience and knowledge enables him to provide informative speeches to others about insurance bad faith law. The seminar begins at 12:00 p.m. in the Circuit Courtroom of the Judicial Center located at 50 Public Square, Somerset, Kentucky.
  6. University of Kentucky Law Camp
    Austin Mehr recently used his legal experience and knowledge to speak on June 15, 2016 at University of Kentucky Law School’s Law Camp. Austin spoke to approximately 18 high school students about the legal profession, interesting aspects of his legal experience, how he became interested in civil law, and other topics related to his navigation to and through the legal profession.
  7. 2016 Top Rated Lawyers
    Congratulations to Austin Mehr on being nominated as a 2016 AV Preeminent Top Rated Lawyer in Insurance Law!

  8. Litigating Bad Faith in Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims
    Austin Mehr is committed to continuing education and keeping interested individuals up to date on areas of law that he frequently practices. On Thursday, March 24, 2016, Austin is scheduled to be a speaker for the National Business Institute's Live Audio Webinar "Litigating Bad Faith in Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims."

    For more information, including CLE credit in your state, how to sign up for the webinar, and associated fees, please visit National Business Institute's website here.

  9. Filing an Insurance Claim: Common Mistakes
    As provided on United Policyholders' website, there are common mistakes that people make when they are filing an insurance claim. Author Geoff Williams states that those common mistakes include: giving more information than is asked; giving more information than is necessary; not documenting the damage, issue, or event enough; not documenting your conversations with the insurance company; not asking questions; filing an unnecessary claim; not calculating pros vs. cons of filing a claim; etc. Do you agree? Have you experienced any related issues when filing (or not) an insurance claim?

    To read the entire article (and not just the quick summary above) discussing common mistakes in filing insurance claims, click here.

    The original article was posted on US News and World Report.
  10. Austin Mehr Gives Speech on Insurance Bad Faith
    Austin Mehr was recently invited to give a speech on insurance bad faith. Individuals from Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, Delaware, New York, South Dakota, and New Jersey were in attendance for Austin's speech!
  11. The Importance of Disability Insurance
    Having insurance coverage that protects you and your loved ones in the case of a tragedy, unforeseen event, or disabling condition is extremely important. As the article linked below discusses, disability insurance may be just as important as other types of insurance coverage that you purchase to protect your future. Performing research and being prepared is key!

    Make sure you check out the additional article referenced within the link above: "Too Young For Disability Insurance? Yeah, Right." It is never too early to start thinking of your future: especially when the future - and any potential disabilities it may hold - is unknown. United Policyholders' Too Young For Disability Insurance? Yeah, Right, provides: "[T]he chances of a young adult becoming disabled are high: Just over 1 in 4 of today's 20-year-olds will become disabled before they reach retirement age, according to the Social Security Administration."

  12. 2014 Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision Allows Assignment of Bad Faith Claims
    "The right to make assignments protects the most financially vulnerable policyholders from opportunistic breaches by their insurance companies at the crucial moments when policyholders rightfully expect their insurers to protect them as their fiduciaries." Allstate Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Wolfe, 105 A.3d 1181, 1186, n. 6 (Pa. 2014) (See Brief for Amicus United Policyholders at 30 (United Policyholders Amicus Brief Access)).

    In December 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that insured individuals are allowed to assign any bad faith claim they possess against their insurance company. Allstate Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Wolfe, 105 A.3d 1181 (Pa. 2014). United Policyholders filed an Amicus Brief that is cited throughout the Court's opinion. This is a favorable decision that helps further protect the rights of insured individuals, and those whom they may be liable against, from the unfair actions of insurance companies. The facts of this case includes an insurance company's (Allstate) insured who assigned all rights and claims which he might have against the insurance company to the individual to whom he was liable for hitting in a motor vehicle accident while driving under the influence.

    See Wolfe v. Allstate Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 790 F.3d 487 (3rd Cir. 2015) for subsequent case activity.

     Check out the links below for more information on the Pennsylvania Court's decision.

  13. Mehr Fairbanks Trial Lawyers Receives Favorable Decisions Against the University of Kentucky
    Mehr Fairbanks Trial Lawyers recently received two favorable orders from Judge Shepherd and Judge Wingate of Franklin Circuit Court. Pursuant to these opinions, employees of the University of Kentucky (“UK”) have a constitutional right to sue UK regarding entitlement to long-term disability benefits. UK previously set up a trust, administered by a Trustee, which will pay entitled employees long-term disability benefits in the event that they should become disabled. Pursuant to the Franklin Circuit Court’s orders, UK employees may now sue UK under Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution. With these orders, UK employees will now have a remedy and won’t be denied a judicial review because of sovereign immunity: UK employees can seek judicial review of UK’s administrative decision under an arbitrary and capricious standard.

    UK is currently appealing these decisions.

  14. The American Society of Legal Advocates selected Austin Mehr as one of the Top 100 Litigation Lawyers in the State of Kentucky
    Austin Mehr has been selected as one of the Top 100 Litigation Lawyers in the State of Kentucky for 2015 by the American Society of Legal Advocates!

  15. Factors to Consider When Determining Whether or Not to File an Insurance Claim
    Sometimes, in the event of an accident, tragedy, or personal disaster, filing an insurance claim can be overwhelming and confusing. United Policyholders suggests these factors to consider before filing a claim so that you will be better prepared in determining whether or not to file a claim at a moment when it means the most. United Policyholders' advice includes:

    To claim or not to claim...that is the question. To figure out if it makes financial sense to file an insurance claim you need to do a bit of research and a bit of math.

    First the math: An obvious rule is don't file a claim if you're sure the damage is less than your deductible. If it is, you won't recover a dime from your insurer but the claim goes on your record and may put you in a higher risk/rate category - even if you didn't collect any benefits.
    If you're not sure how much the damage is - try and figure it out before filing a claim - but don't wait too long. If you wait too long after a loss to notify your insurer - the insurer may complain that you "prejudiced" their interests by failing to notify them promptly. They may even deny the claim on that ground.

    More math: If the damage is less than a few hundred above your deductible - again - probably not worth filing. Pay it out of pocket. Yes it's unfair to be penalized for using the insurance you've paid for. But because most states allow insurers to freely penalize their customers for filing claims - its up to you to protect yourself. Some states do limit the amount an insurer can surcharge you.

    Now the research: Ask your agent point blank - how much will my rate go up if I file one, two or more claims? Does it matter how far apart they occur? Write down the answers and keep them with your insurance policy for future reference.

    Now you can make an educated decision.
    If damage is well above your deductible - by all means file it. That's why you pay for insurance. If your rate goes up as a result - complain in writing to the insurer, and to your state regulator - and confirm that the increase was legal and consistent with the rating plan they filed with the state.
    If after doing your research you learn that your insurer will penalize you for filing even one claim, consider switching to a more customer-friendly insurance company that has fairer rules. Many insurers will not penalize you for filing just one claim - even if it was your fault.

    Do you agree? Do you know any other factors that should be considered when deciding whether or not to file an insurance claim? Let us know below!

    For the factors above, and other interesting articles, visit United Policyholders' website: The above article can be found here.
  16. Austin Mehr Selected for Membership into Top 100 Trial Lawyers
    Congratulations to Austin Mehr on being chosen again for membership into The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers!

  17. Top 10 Market Conduct Issues For U.S. Insurers
    Informative article providing the top 10 market conduct compliance issues for U.S. property and casualty insurers. Read the article here.

    Have you had any experiences with U.S. insurers where market conduct similar to those on the top 10 list was present?
  18. 50 Insurance Cases Every Attorney or Risk Professional Should Know
    International Risk Management Institute, Inc. (IRMI) provides a free 150 page book discussing 50 insurance, property-casualty cases that " or risk professional should know" and the implications of those 50 cases.

    Check out the link to find out what 50 cases IRMI believes to be the most significant in this area. Do you agree with the list of cases identified? What cases do you believe should be added to the list? 
  19. The Importance of Adequate Insurance While Traveling
    United Policyholders provides monthly tips that all current and potential insurance customers should consider. The tip for the month of September, "Back home safe and sound" demonstrates the importance of having adequate insurance while traveling and finding yourself in the midst of a natural disaster. Having adequate insurance can help ensure coverage of your belongings in the event an unfortunate accident occurs.

    Check out the link above for the September tip of the month!
  20. Mehr Trial Lawyers, PLLC Honored By United Policyholders for Dedication to Empowering the Insured
    A Certificate of Sponsorship from United Policyholders was issued honoring Mehr Trial Lawyers, PLLC for dedication to empowering the insured