Insurance Claims And Breach Of Contract

Insurance lawyers in Texas must know how to assert bad faith claims. A 2005, Waco Court of Appeals case styled, United States Fire Insurance Company v. Fugate, is good reading for understanding how to properly assert a bad faith claim. Here is what the case tells us.
The insured and her family were injured in a collision with another vehicle. After the insured filed suit against the driver of the other vehicle, the parties settled. The insured then sued her employer’s insurer, United States Fire Insurance Company (US Fire), alleging breach of the insurance contract seeking to recover underinsured and uninsured motorist (UIM) benefits under the employer provided insurance policy. The insured did not assert any bad faith claim against US Fire in her breach of the insurance contract lawsuit. After a jury trial and judgment in favor of the employee on the breach of the insurance contract claim, the insured filed a second lawsuit against US Fire asserting a claim under the bad faith statutes and seeking statutory penalties and attorney’s fees on the ground that US Fire did not timely acknowledge her UIM claim. US Fire sought summary judgment in the bad faith cause of action, asserting that the claim was barred by res judicata because it could have been litigated in the first suit. The trial court granted Fugate’s motion for summary judgment and awarded her statutory penalties and attorney’s fees and this appeal followed.
The Waco Court of Appeals reversed and rendered judgment in favor of US Fire on its res judicata defense. The court held that the bad faith statutes of the Texas Insurance Code must be asserted contemporaneously with a breach of the insurance contract claim or be barred by res judicata. Finding that the second lawsuit for bad faith damages involved the same parties was premised upon the same claims as the breach of the insurance contract action and that the bad faith claims could have been raised in the first action because the claim for untimely acknowledgement of a UIM claim related to the breach of the insurance contract claim for UIM benefits, the court concluded that the second suit based solely on bad faith was therefore barred by res judicata.
The insurance laws can be complicated. That is why it is vital that an experienced Insurance Law Attorney be consulted when a claim is being made against an insurance company.