Bad Faith And The Common Law

Lawyers handling “bad faith” insurance cases need to understand how bad faith is treated by Texas common law.
This blog spends a lot of space dealing with the Texas Insurance Code and how violations of those statutes is bad faith insurance. Under Texas law, there is also a common law cause of action for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing in cases where an insurance company has no reasonable basis for denial or delay of payment or fails to reasonably investigate its basis for denying a claim. This has been explained by the 1987, Texas Supreme Court case styled, Arnold v. National County Mutual Fire Insurance Co. The precise meaning of phrases such as “liability becomes reasonably clear” and “reasonable basis for denial” are not yet clearly defined, but they are continually being litigated in an effort to formulate more exact definitions. There are a trio of Texas Supreme Court cases dealing with this subject. This trio of cases purport to redefine the breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, but Texas courts have treated these cases in much the same fashion as they have for years. Under the new standard for looking at bad faith cases an unpublished Dallas Court of Appeals case observed: “Under the new standard, the insured must show that the insurer denied the claim after liability became reasonably clear. To show that liability was reasonably clear, the insured must show that the insurer had no reasonable basis for denial. As noted by a majority of justices on the Supreme Court, the change is merely semantic.”
The above should be confusing to most people. This writer would suggest that the above being confusing is ok. The reason it is ok is that insurance lawyers now have the statutes in the Texas Insurance Code that are ample ammunition for fighting wrongs committed by insurance companies.
Here is a couple of examples.
1) There are specific statutes that deal with an insurance company improperly investigating and denying a claim. These statutes are found at Section 541.060 and 541.061, among others.
2) As for delays in paying claims, Section 542.051 thru 542.061 are very handy for the experienced Insurance Law Attorney. And in this same light, where applicable, Section 1952.157 is a great weapon to use against auto insurers.

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