One of the laws recently passed by the Louisiana Legislature and signed into law by Governor John Bell Edwards is Senate Bill 106, which went into effect on August 1, 2023.
SB 106 adds a new section to the Louisiana Policyholder Bill of Rights, contained in La. R.S. 22:41, requiring insurers to:
[M]ake available upon the written request of an insured any portion of the claim file, including but not limited to estimates, bids, plans, measurements, drawings, engineer reports, contractor reports, statements, photographs, video recordings, or any other documents or communications unless the record is legally privileged that the insurer prepared, had prepared, or used during its adjustment of the insured’s claim.1
The law does add one exception in the case of fraud investigations:
An insurer may keep confidential any adjuster notes, logs, and any other documents or communications prepared in conjunction with a fraud investigation.2
As we previously discussed, SB 106 unanimously passed in both sides of the Louisiana Legislature with complete bipartisan support as a common-sense measure to ensure that policyholders are in possession of the same documents their insurers use to evaluate their claims. Although a seemingly simple requirement, this change in the law clarifies that insurers must turn in the entire claim file upon written request.
When we send a letter of representation to an insurance company requesting the entire claim file, the insurance company representatives will commonly only release certain documents, such as the certified policy, payment sheets, and some estimates. We must request certain documents individually, and they magically keep coming up with new documents not previously disclosed. However, after filing a lawsuit, the entire claim file is discoverable, and multiple case management orders for Louisiana hurricane litigation require the disclosure of the entire claim file, including claims notes. These claims notes can often reveal where a claim went wrong and what needs to be done to resolve it.
SB 106 thus assists policyholders and their advocates even the playing field, disallowing an insurer from potentially concealing unfavorable information in its claims notes until filing a lawsuit. In requiring more complete disclosure from the insurer, SB 106 should facilitate better claims handling practices and more efficient communications.
Anyone sending a letter of representation to an insurance company from this point forward should consider citing La. R.S. 22:41(p) as legal authority and request the entire claim file. Although the Louisiana Policyholder Bill of Rights, by its own language, is informative and does not provide a separate cause of action for violations of its provisions, failure to turn over the claim file (in the absence of a legitimate fraud investigation) and abide by the changes from SB 106 should result in greater scrutiny when analyzing related issues, like breach of contract and bad faith claims handling.
Remember, the Hurricane Ida Deadline is August 29—The End Is Now! Open Hurricane Ida claims need to be in the hands of an attorney and a lawsuit filed now before it is too late.
Quote of the day:
Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.
—Charles de Gaulle