Protecting You From Fraud
Buckman Law Firm represents clients litigating bad faith claims and insurance fraud in State and Federal courts in Oklahoma. We assist clients in protecting their rights while looking for ways to settle and resolve matters. The firm offers the benefit of high standards of discretion and professionalism with decades of bad faith experience. Oklahoma insurance bad faith lawsuits frequently arise when the insurer and policyholder disagree over the amount paid in a claim settlement. The insured will bring accusations of bad faith including improper claim practices against the insurance company for the decision by the court. Some commonly raised issues include:
- Denying a claim without explanation
- Failure to communicate with insured over the policy benefits
- Failure to conduct an adequate investigation of the claim
- Prolonging payment or hindering settlement negotiations
- Not disclosing policy limits
- Improper settlement offers
- Offering less than the amount owed
Undoubtedly every insurance company will defend these accusations and contest any award of punitive damages. Many times the insurer will defend by accusing the insureds of wrong doing to point out the policyholder doesn’t have “clean hands”. If the policyholders commit Oklahoma insurance fraud to collect larger settlements, it can give the insurer a full defense. The stakes are high in bad faith lawsuits. For an insurance company, even bogus accusations of bad faith, regardless of their merit, can have detrimental consequences to their reputation. Bad faith allegations can cost the company business in the future.
When you hire this firm, you get decades of experience in the bad faith field to help find a good resolution to your problem. Experienced counsel makes all the difference!
The biggest mistake we see made is waiting too long to retain an attorney. One of the best things you can do in bad faith claims is to involve legal counsel early in the claim. A lawyer plays a very valuable intermediary role in these situations by legally managing all forms of communication between the litigants and the courts. The activities need to be well documented to prove what actually happened.
Buckman Law Firm has found that when parties take a proactive and communicative stance, there’s a much better chance of negotiating a settlement out of court. The odds of settlement greatly increase when there’s:
- Good and clear communication about the policy and your position
- Active negotiations for an equitable settlement
- Exploration of early mediation and arbitration proceedings
- Prompt and thorough investigation of the claim
- Early meetings arranged with the opposing attorneys
There will always be some cases where going to court is the only option. In those cases Buckman Law Firm will stand by you to protect your rights, your integrity, and your good reputation.
For a little over 40 years, the Oklahoma Courts have allowed a civil action to be brought against an insurance company by an insured for a tort claim that is commonly referred to as “bad faith.” In some respects, the cause of action is extremely broad and encompassing. In other ways, the legal theory is somewhat restrictive and actually provides the insurance company with certain protections. Probably the best summary of Oklahoma law was provided in the decision of Newport v. USAA, 2000 OK 59, 11 P.3d 190. The Oklahoma Supreme Court said:
An insurer has an “implied-in-law duty to act in good faith and deal fairly with the insured to ensure that the policy benefits are received.” Christian v. American Home Assurance Co., 1977 OK 141, 577 P.2d 899. The essence of bad-faith action “is the insurer’s unreasonable, bad-faith conduct, including the unjustified withholding of payment due under a policy.” McCorkle v. Great Atl. Ins. Co., 1981 OK 128, 637 P.2d 583.
The tort of bad faith does not foreclose the insurer’s right to deny a claim, resist payment, or litigate any claim “to which the insurer has a legitimate defense.” Buzzard v. Farmers Ins. Co., 1991 OK 127, ¶ 13, 824 P.2d 1105, 1109 (Buzzard II). “A [bad faith] cause of action will not lie where there is a legitimate dispute.” Manis v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 1984 OK 25, ¶ 12, 681 P.2d 760, 762. However, when presented with a claim by its insured, an insurer “must conduct an investigation reasonably appropriate under the circumstances” and “the claim must be paid promptly unless the insurer has a reasonable belief that the claim is legally or factually insufficient.” Id. “The decisive question is whether the insurer had a “good faith belief at the time its performance was requested, that it had a justifiable reason for withholding payment under the policy.” Id. (quoting Buzzard v. McDanel, 1987 OK 28, ¶ 10, 736 P.2d 157, 159)(Buzzard I)). “The knowledge and belief of the insurer during the time period the claim is being reviewed is the focus of a bad-faith claim.” Id. (citing Buzzard I, 987 OK 28, 736 P.2d at 159).
An insurer is entitled to have any dispute regarding the reasonableness of its actions settled by a jury. “[I]f there is conflicting evidence from which different inferences may be drawn regarding the reasonableness of insurer’s conduct, then what is reasonable is always a question to be determined by the trier of fact by a consideration of the circumstances in each case.” McCorkle, 1981 OK 128, 637 P.2d at 587.
Buckman Law Firm, A Professional Corporation, has extensive experience in “bad faith” litigation.