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Victor is committed to helping people and corporations with insurance issues throughout the entire State of California. He primarily focuses on complex commercial property losses, homeowner’s claims and insurance bad faith litigation. He also has extensive experience with matters involving general liability, builder’s risk, professional liability, marine and pollution insurance policies.
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In California, a carrier’s bad faith liability includes conduct beyond what is set out in the Insurance Code (statutory) and the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Act regulations. Bad faith conduct is also expressed through case law. Some of this additional bad faith conduct is summarized below. Effectively communicating an insurer’s bad faith conduct is essential to resolving insurance disputes. When you see bad faith conduct, a best practice is to bring the conduct to the carrier’s attention and explain why such conduct is prohibited.
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In California, the moment an insured obtains a repair estimate that exceeds the insurer’s estimate, the insurer must either pay the difference or adjust its original estimate. This rule is set forth in the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Act, 10 Cal. Code Regs. § 2695.9(d). Generally, whenever anyone makes an insurance claim, the insurance company will create a scope of work to repair the damaged property and an estimate of what that cost to repair is. The insurer’s estimate does not atomically mean that is the amount of the claim. An insured has the right to get his or her own estimate and the insurer is required to consider that estimate.
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It is becoming more and more common that insurance companies are recommending and suggesting that their “preferred vendors” perform loss repairs. California offers insureds protection if they opt to use a preferred vendor. Under the Fairs Claims Settlement Practices Regulations, if an insurer recommends a vendor, the insurer is essentially required to guaranty that vendor’s work.
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Always double check the insured’s contract with a contractor doing repair work for a claim. The California Court of Appeal recently ruled, in Jozefowicz v. Allstate Insurance Company,1 that an insurer can directly pay a contractor when the contract provided that the contractor was appointed as the insured’s representative in fact to endorse and deposit insurance checks. The court came to this conclusion despite the fact there was a dispute over the contractor’s work.
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The California Fair Claims Settlement Practices Act imposes multiple deadlines to respond and report to insureds during a claim adjustment. Knowing and understanding an insurer’s reporting duties and deadlines can speed up the adjustment and payment of a claim. Although a failure to meet a deadline by a day or two may not, in and of itself, constitute bad faith, failing to respond to an insured or repeated failure to meet deadlines is evidence of an insurer’s poor conduct and may be evidence of bad faith.
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The California Insurance Code mandates if a property insurance policy requires actual cash value payment, the payment must be based on the property’s depreciation for two types of claims: (1) a partial loss to a structure, i.e., a home or building and (2) damaged contents, i.e., personal property or business personal property.1 Fortunately, there is guidance on how depreciation is applied. Cal. Ins. Code § 2051 states actual cash value is the amount it would cost the insured to repair, rebuild, or replace the damaged property less a fair and reasonable deduction for physical depreciation based upon the property’s condition at the time of the injury or the policy limit, whichever is less.
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California residents were not spared from disaster in 2018. Instead, devastating wildfires continued, which included the biggest and most devastating wildfires to ever ravage California. The continued disasters were more frequent and begun much earlier during California’s prolonged dry period. The number and size of the wildfires along with insurance carriers’ claim handling have brought insurance issues to the legislature and governor’s attention. This has resulted in new laws benefitting policyholders. Some of the important legislation enacted into law in California in 2018 is summarized below.
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