Can Insurers Deny Claims by Blaming Weather?

truck driving through flood watersCalifornia has seen significant amounts of rain, resulting in flooding, mudslides and landslides. These weather events have resulted in significant damage to property, injuries to people and even deaths. This raises questions about insurance coverage for damages.

Unfortunately, the insurance company may try to deny your claim by blaming adverse weather events. You may be wondering whether this is legal or possible if you file a claim for damage to your vehicle or injuries you suffered due to these weather-related events.

Call our Sacramento car accident lawyers today to discuss your claim. We may be able to determine your legal options if your insurer tries to deny coverage. The consultation is free, and there are no upfront fees.

Below, we discuss valid reasons for denying claims for damages from weather-related events and what your legal options may be if your insurer acts in bad faith.

When Can Insurers Deny Claims?

Insurance companies do have the right to deny claims. However, they cannot deny your claim for no reason or without a valid reason. Denying a claim without a valid justification is an example of handling a claim in bad faith, and insurers have a legal obligation to handle claims in good faith.

One excuse that insurance companies often use to deny claims is that your damages are not covered because of:

  • There is a lapse in coverage because you did not renew the policy or you missed a payment that resulted in the cancellation of your policy.
  • The type of damage is not covered, such as if your vehicle suffered flood damage and you do not have comprehensive coverage in your policy.
  • There is an exclusion clause in the policy – there is a specific section in the policy that states the insurance company does not cover certain damage, such as flood damage.

These are valid reasons to deny a claim. However, there is a possibility that the insurance company is using deceptive language to get out of paying a valid claim. That is why it is important to review the terms of your policy with a knowledgeable attorney who can help you determine what is and is not covered under your insurance contract.

You should not assume storm/weather damage is not covered, especially if the insurance company tells you storm damage or weather damage is not covered. It depends on the terms of the policy – insurance companies cannot just issue blanket denials for storm/weather damage claims.

Insurance companies also like to blame victims for their own damages. They may try to argue that you did not take reasonable precautions to prevent your damages. For example, they may say you deliberately drove through flood waters that damaged your vehicle and caused your injuries.

Can I Sue My Insurer Over Bad Faith Practices?

Under California law, a policyholder can sue his or her own insurance company for bad faith practices.

There are very strict laws regulating insurance practices. The Unfair Insurance Practices Act (UIPA) specifies that insurance companies cannot:

  • Fail to communicate with a policyholder about the claim
  • Fail to properly explain their reasoning for denying a claim
  • Misrepresent benefits in the policy
  • Refuse to pay the full value of a valid claim
  • Fail to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation in the claims process
  • Fail to respond to a claim promptly
  • Fail to establish a reasonable standard for processing claims
  • Use stall tactics to delay paying out a claim
  • Knowingly make a lowball offer so the policyholder accepts a lower settlement

One of the most important regulations on insurance companies is that they cannot force a policyholder into litigation because they refuse to offer a settlement. You can still sue your own insurance company, but they cannot refuse to come to the negotiating table in hopes that you will not want to sue.

This opens the door for insurance policyholders to negotiate a settlement before a lawsuit is filed. If the insurance company does not agree to settle the case, you may take the case to court.

What if I Suffered an Injury as a Passenger in a Vehicle?

If you were a passenger in a vehicle and suffered an injury due to the floods, you may be able to file a claim with the driver’s liability insurance.

However, you must be able to prove the driver’s negligent actions are what caused your injuries. For example, if the driver knowingly drove through flood waters.

What Are My Options if My Claim is Denied Over Lack of Coverage?

If you suffered damages to your vehicle or other personal property due to the devastating floods in California, but you do not have insurance coverage, you may be able to file a claim with the Department of Social Services.

The president has approved an increase in assistance for disaster relief in California, so you may also be able to file a claim through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Call Us Today to Discuss Your Insurance Claim

If you suffered damages due to the devastating floods in California, but the insurance company is denying your claim by blaming severe weather, you should work with an attorney.

Our lawyers have decades of experience dealing with insurance companies to get the compensation our clients need. We can negotiate for maximum recovery or file a lawsuit if the insurance company does not want to cooperate.

Call 916-777-7777 to schedule a free consultation.