TX Jury Awards Restaurant $4.2M in Bad Faith Insurance Case

A jury recently awarded a Corpus Christie Texas restaurant $4.2 million after its insurance company refused to cover a slip and fall claim because the accident involved an off-duty employee. Nearly two-thirds of that award constituted punitive damages against the insurer.

Personal injury, bad faith - and a large damages award

The case itself is very straight forward. According to news reports, the San Luis Mexican Restaurant in Corpus Christie Texas had an insurance policy with Illinois based Evanston Insurance Company. An off-duty employee slipped and fell at the restaurant and was severely injured.

The restaurant submitted the claim, but its insurer refused to honor it because an employee, not a customer, was injured. The restaurant sued Evanston for bad faith insurance practices and won $1.4 million for the accident and a whopping $2.8 million in punitive damages for the insurer's bad faith dealings - nearly two thirds of the entire award. Ironically, Evanston didn't want to pay anyone, the restaurant or the lawyer it hired to defend it. The insurer allegedly stopped paying the attorney halfway through the trial.

Bad faith insurance practices

Bad faith insurance practices affect both businesses and individuals. Regardless of the insured, an insurance company has a duty to treat its insureds fairly and in good faith. That means addressing the claim and paying for damages covered under the policy in a timely manner. Unfortunately, many insurance companies don't follow the rules or the language contained in their own insurance contracts. The less money they pay out, the more money they keep. It sounds almost too simple, but that's the general concept according to consumer advocates and bad faith insurance lawyers.

When insurers don't live up to their end of the deal, policyholders can - and should - fight back. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Put it in writing. Dealing with insurance companies over the phone can often lead to a "he said / she said" situation. To avoid that, put everything in writing - either by letter or email. That way, everyone has a record of who said what, what was promised and when it was promised.
  • Manage your own claim file. Don't assume that your insurance company has your claim at the top of the pile, because chances are, it doesn't. Give the claims representative a reasonable amount of time to investigate the claim, and then follow up on a regular basis to make sure the claim is progressing.
  • Know when to seek assistance. When nothing seems to be happening and your requests are being ignored, consider contacting your state's insurance department or a bad faith insurance attorney to intervene on your behalf.

    To contact your state's insurance department, click here. To contact an experienced bad faith insurance lawyer, click here. Consultations with a lawyer are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.

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