Late Payment Of Claims

When does someone in Grand Prairie, Fort Worth, Burleson, Crowley, Lake Worth, Benbrook, Alvarado, Keene, Joshua, or anywhere else in Texas, know that the insurance company is taking too long to pay the claim?
There is no easy answer to the question. The laws related to the time frame for payment of claims are found in the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act. A reading of these laws is confusing. Even an experienced Insurance Law Attorney will have to read the law, look at the facts in the case then reread the law and see how it applies to the facts of the case. A big part of this law is the penalty the insurance company is subject to having to pay for violations of the law. So how is this penalty calculated?
The Fort Worth Court of Appeals decided a case in 2008, that provides some guidance. The case is styled, GuideOne Lloyd’s Insurance Company v. First Baptist Church of Bedford. Here are some relevant background facts:
First Baptist Church brought suit against GuideOne for hail damage to the roof of its church building. GuideOne’s engineer concluded the roof had to be replaced and could not be repaired. GuideOne solicited an estimate to repair the roof anyway, and the church obtained an estimate for the replacement cost, including a statutorily required insulation upgrade. The jury awarded the church approximately $286,000 for the covered losses, $60,000 in damages on the church’s Insurance Code violations, and $30,000 in compensatory and $55,000 in exemplary damages for a knowing violation, along with $100,000 in attorneys’ fees, and $188,000 based on the 18% interest penalty under the Prompt Payment of Claims Act for untimely payment of claims. The jury found that GuideOne had made an unconditional tender of $155,000 to the church after the church filed suit. GuideOne argued that the trial court erred in disregarding the jury’s finding regarding its unconditional offer and that the interest penalty should have been calculated without subtracting the $155,000 that the jury found it had unconditionally offered after the suit was filed. GuideOne also challenged certain questions on the jury charge as erroneous.
In making its ruling, this court said the trial court erred in disregarding the jury’s finding that GuideOne had unconditionally offered $155,000 to settle the claim because there was some evidence to support the jury’s finding. In applying the offer to arrive at a new interest calculation, the court applied the $155,000 tender first to the accrued prejudgment interest on the amount of the coverage with the balance applied the principle coverage amount owed, and then use the adjusted principle to calculate the 18% interest penalty for untimely payment. The court rejected GuideOne’s argument that the plaintiff had not received a finding on the accrual date for its Prompt Payment claim because the accrual date was undisputed and need not be submitted to the jury.
With regard to the jury charge issues, the court found that submission of multiple alternative definitions of an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” was harmless even if erroneous, and that a question on “false, misleading or deceptive” acts was not duplicative of the question about “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” Other challenges to the jury’s finding were not erroneous because the judgment was not based on the challenged findings and otherwise, GuideOne waived its challenges to the jury charges.

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