If you have been involved in a car accident with vehicle property damage, chances are that you have contacted an insurance company - whether it was your own or the insurance company of the at-fault driver to get the property damage to your vehicle paid. In the vast majority of cases, the insurance company inspects your vehicle, and writes you a check to compensate you for an undisputed amount of property damage. In some cases, however, the insurance company drops the ball, which is when our clients seek counsel about their options.
In Louisiana, the legislature has passed a law addressing this very issue - La. R.S. 22:1892, which is known generally as a “Bad Faith” statute. That law requires that an insurance company is required to pay the amount of any claim - from either their own insured or any third party within thirty days after it has been established that they must pay those claims. The insurance company must also institute loss adjustment within 14 days after notice of the claim.
If the insurance company fails to do this, they may be liable for penalties and attorneys fees, and you may have a lawsuit to file against them. La. R.S. 22:1892 (B)(1) provides for penalties that may be an extra 50% of the amount of damage to the vehicle as well as attorney fees. Further, you may be entitled to be compensated for you expenses for making alternative transportation, such as taking Uber or Lyft and attorneys fees.
The full statute provides:
§1892. Payment and adjustment of claims, policies other than life and health and accident; personal vehicle damage claims; extension of time to respond to claims during emergency or disaster; penalties; arson-related claims suspension
A.(1) All insurers issuing any type of contract, other than those specified in R.S. 22:1811, 1821, and Chapter 10 of Title 23 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, shall pay the amount of any claim due any insured within thirty days after receipt of satisfactory proofs of loss from the insured or any party in interest. The insurer shall notify the insurance producer of record of all such payments for property damage claims made in accordance with this Paragraph.
(2) All insurers issuing any type of contract, other than those specified in R.S. 22:1811, R.S. 22:1821, and Chapter 10 of Title 23 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, shall pay the amount of any third party property damage claim and of any reasonable medical expenses claim due any bona fide third party claimant within thirty days after written agreement of settlement of the claim from any third party claimant.
(3) Except in the case of catastrophic loss, the insurer shall initiate loss adjustment of a property damage claim and of a claim for reasonable medical expenses within fourteen days after notification of loss by the claimant. In the case of catastrophic loss, the insurer shall initiate loss adjustment of a property damage claim within thirty days after notification of loss by the claimant except that the commissioner may promulgate a rule for extending the time period for initiating a loss adjustment for damages arising from a presidentially declared emergency or disaster or a gubernatorially declared emergency or disaster up to an additional thirty days. Thereafter, only one additional extension of the period of time for initiating a loss adjustment may be allowed and must be approved by the Senate Committee on Insurance and the House Committee on Insurance, voting separately. Failure to comply with the provisions of this Paragraph shall subject the insurer to the penalties provided in R.S. 22:1973.
(4) All insurers shall make a written offer to settle any property damage claim, including a third-party claim, within thirty days after receipt of satisfactory proofs of loss of that claim.
B.(1) Failure to make such payment within thirty days after receipt of such satisfactory written proofs and demand therefor or failure to make a written offer to settle any property damage claim, including a third-party claim, within thirty days after receipt of satisfactory proofs of loss of that claim, as provided in Paragraphs (A)(1) and (4) of this Section, respectively, or failure to make such payment within thirty days after written agreement or settlement as provided in Paragraph (A)(2) of this Section when such failure is found to be arbitrary, capricious, or without probable cause, shall subject the insurer to a penalty, in addition to the amount of the loss, of fifty percent damages on the amount found to be due from the insurer to the insured, or one thousand dollars, whichever is greater, payable to the insured, or to any of said employees, or in the event a partial payment or tender has been made, fifty percent of the difference between the amount paid or tendered and the amount found to be due as well as reasonable attorney fees and costs. Such penalties, if awarded, shall not be used by the insurer in computing either past or prospective loss experience for the purpose of setting rates or making rate filings.
(2) The period set herein for payment of losses resulting from fire and the penalty provisions for nonpayment within the period shall not apply where the loss from fire was arson related and the state fire marshal or other state or local investigative bodies have the loss under active arson investigation. The provisions relative to time of payment and penalties shall commence to run upon certification of the investigating authority that there is no evidence of arson or that there is insufficient evidence to warrant further proceedings.
(3) The provisions relative to suspension of payment due to arson shall not apply to a bona fide lender which holds a valid recorded mortgage on the property in question.
(4) Whenever a property damage claim is on a personal vehicle owned by the third party claimant and as a direct consequence of the inactions of the insurer and the third party claimant's loss the third party claimant is deprived of use of the personal vehicle for more than five working days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, the insurer responsible for payment of the claim shall pay, to the extent legally responsible, for reasonable expenses incurred by the third party claimant in obtaining alternative transportation for the entire period of time during which the third party claimant is without the use of his personal vehicle. Failure to make such payment within thirty days after receipt of adequate written proof and demand therefor, when such failure is found to be arbitrary, capricious, or without probable cause shall subject the insurer to, in addition to the amount of such reasonable expenses incurred, a reasonable penalty not to exceed ten percent of such reasonable expenses or one thousand dollars whichever is greater together with reasonable attorneys fees for the collection of such expenses.
If you are involved in a car accident in Metairie or New Orleans, it is important to consult with an experienced Metairie personal injury attorney or a New Orleans personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
- Megan C. Kiefer is a partner at Kiefer and Kiefer. She is a lawyer who specializes in car accidents and personal injury and has experience handling bad faith cases when an insurance company acts in bad faith and does not pay timely.
This is being provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.