No matter how many times you do this, you always learn something new. For the first time, I noticed that a major insurance company was directing one of its policyholders to upload every bit of information regarding a claim, particularly the contents portion into an online portal. On some more basic level, I already knew this. I see the television ads asking policyholders to upload information about their automotive accidents into a phone app, so this was really the logical next step for them. This caused me to think. With technology advancements being what they are, it is very tempting to utilize technology under the theory that it will streamline the claims process.
The more I thought about it, the more I had misgivings about these types of systems. It is very important when you are bringing an insurance claim, especially if it may become a lawsuit later, to be able to document the communications you had with the insurance company. It is going to be very hard to prove what you told the insurance company and when you told them if all of your communication is limited to using their proprietary system. In the world of litigation, it is amazing how often an important communication just might happen to go missing due to some technological difficulty when it is damaging to the party that has control of the communication. Of course, in theory, ethically, morally, and legally this should never occur, but it never ceases to surprise me.
Now in our law firm, we often communicate with insurance companies or their attorneys through email or fax. Sometimes if it’s incredibly important, we may even send a certified letter. Our office would be a bit reticent to use a system that’s created and maintained by an insurance company, because it may be hard for us to prove what we told them later. For example, in Louisiana, bad faith statutes are very useful for a policyholder that has been mistreated or treated unfairly by an insurance company. One of the ways that we can document the treatment of the claim and eventually bad faith is by showing what was said to us by the insurance company and what we said to the insurance company. For instance, I heard about a claim only today where a major insurance company had made a misrepresentation to its policy holder about the severity of the damage. This was very important because the nature of the damage was actually harmful to the policyholder’s health and the insurance company was lying about it. In fact, what the insurance company should have been doing is moving the family out of that home. It would have been a shame if that communication gone missing because it was done through a portal maintained by that insurance company.
Some of these insurance companies are using these portals for contents claims. Of course, contents claims are the claims that you bring for your movable items that were damaged. Not your floors, not your walls, but your bed, your bedding, your furniture. They want you to upload pictures. They want you to upload receipts. In fact, when you log into the system, there are all these options that you can choose, and it almost makes it sound like you have to have all of these things such as invoices, receipts, and photos. Yes. It is absolutely important to document your loss as thoroughly as possible. The reality is not everyone has every receipt for everything.
You won’t have the time or money to document every single item before a loss occurred. Sure, this is a great practice – documenting every single thing you have and its value just in case something happens one day. It’s not necessarily required. And, in fact, it would be quite expensive and time-consuming to do so, but nevertheless these online systems almost make it sound like you should have these things. I spoke to another homeowner the other day who thought that they had to do those things and actually walked away from their claim, because when they logged in online, they felt like they didn’t have enough proof for their contents claim. After talking to them very briefly we quickly realized they did have enough proof to make their contents claim. This would have been a shame if this person had lost their entire claim because an online system was misleading.
In sum, I would be incredibly hesitant going forward when using a system that’s maintained by an insurance company instead of using a more traditional means of communication such as email or fax, where you can prove what you told them and when. At the end of the day, if an insurance company does not treat you fairly you may need to turn to an attorney such as our Firm to seek the compensation that you may be entitled to and to also review your claim to see if the insurance company is liable for penalties and attorneys’ fees. If we can’t show what they told you and what you told them, this task can be more difficult.
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Galen M. Hair, an aggressive and relentless litigator, is licensed in multiple states and boasts clients from around the world. This unwavering success to continual improvement has led him to be named as a Super Lawyer Rising Star, a Top Lawyer by New Orleans Magazine, the Pro Bono Publico Award and numerous other accolades.