Apr 9, 2009

August 5th has been a significant date in history. It was the day that Jim Palmer was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990. It was the day President Reagan fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981. And, in 1967, it was also the day when the first AFL team beat the first NFL team in a professional football game. That AFL team was the Denver Broncos prevailing over Detroit 13-7.

However, for Colorado injury victims, there are few days more important than August 5, 2008. That is the date of the most powerful legislation was passed in favor of injury victims dealing with the whims of insurance companies. The law is codified in C.R.S. 10-3-1115 and 1116. If your injury lawyer does not know about this law, he should not only be disbarred but also horse-whipped. Obviously, that is a joke. But there is nothing funny about how powerful this statute is if used properly by attorneys representing people embroiled in battles with their own insurance company.

This law is the first Colorado legislation that says insurance companies can be sued when they take premiums from their customers, and then in the insured's time of need, either unreasonably delay or unreasonably deny coverage benefits. Not only does this law provide a forum to let a jury hear about this conduct, but it also mandates that if the customer wins against his insurance company, he wins double the coverage benefits, attorney fees and costs. These recovery amounts are not even discretionary. Simply stated, say, for example, that an insurance company receives ample information to establish that their insured was injured by an uninsured motorist. But instead of paying their insured, they ignore or delay paying on the claim for months. Sound familiar? Yes, before August 5, 2008 it happened all the time. But now, if an insurance company acts in this way, they can be sued. Assume that the insurance policy should have paid $50,000 under the uninsured motorist portion of the policy. If a jury agrees that the insurance company unreasonably delayed or denied benefits, the insurance company will be liable to pay two times the policy-in this case, $100,000. But the insurance company will also have to pay the insured's attorneys' fees and costs. That little delay by the insurance company could cost the company a couple hundred thousand dollars.

So are the days of insurance companies dragging their feet and low-balling claims over? Unfortunately-probably not. But there is an expression that "knowledge is power." Incredibly, even though these laws have been on the books for nearly a year, I am surprised how many attorneys I have to educate on this subject.

I am aware that many attorneys frequently stay on top of the laws by tuning in to my blog. So let me talk to you lawyers. First of all, welcome. Please remember that these insurance companies will play these sorts of games until we as attorneys commit to using the laws on the books to prevent it. If your style of representing clients is to not ruffle feathers and not mix it up with the insurance company, now is the time to shift your practice to real estate law and send your injury clients to lawyers who are prepared to fight for their clients.

If all attorneys representing injury victims start educating themselves on this new law, they will ensure that August 5, 2008 was a revolutionary day for injury victims It was the day the insurance companies lost one of their major two weapons that they frequently use-delay and denial.

We provide a free consultation if you would like to know about CRS 10-3-1115 or anything else about injury compensation.


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