Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith Law – Counseling, Opinions and Litigation

Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith law

Houston Harbaugh has built a strong reputation over the past several decades, representing insurance companies facing the full spectrum of complex legal challenges. No matter how big or critical the challenge, clients turn to Houston Harbaugh’s Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith attorneys for our legal and our business insights.

Because our insurance industry clients must constantly work to stay ahead of changes in society, in business and in the regulatory climate, we’re committed to staying on top of the issues of today and tomorrow, such as cyber-insurance, and insurance for advanced technology sectors, artificial intelligence players, machine learning companies, and autonomous vehicles makers and users.

At the heart of Houston Harbaugh’s Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith practice are first-party and third-party insurance coverage and bad faith claims.

Houston Harbaugh has represented insurance companies in insurance coverage and bad faith litigation filed in federal and state courts involving a wide variety of matters arising under numerous types of insurance policies, including commercial general liability policies, directors’ and officers’ liability policies, property and casualty policies, professional errors and omissions policies, umbrella and excess policies, life and disability insurance policies, and manuscripted policies covering special risks. The firm routinely provides guidance and advice on all types of insurance.

Our understanding of the insurance industry has enabled us to successfully counsel our clients on claims involving coverage and bad faith claims and, if necessary, litigate suits including trial when they cannot otherwise be resolved. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling issues that arise during discovery, motions practice, trial, and appeal of insurance coverage and bad faith claims.

The areas of insurance coverage in which we have significant experience include:

General Liability, Construction Defects and Complex Tort Coverage

Our Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith attorneys have wide-ranging experience in handling coverage disputes involving construction projects and construction defects, mass toxic tort claims arising out of exposures to various toxic substances, defective products, intellectual property disputes and the release of hazardous substances, natural gas production wastewaters and other contaminants onto the ground and into surface and groundwaters. Our attorneys are well practiced in the interpretation of insurance policies, including primary, umbrella, and excess policies in this area. In particular, issues involving bodily injury, occurrence, exhaustion, trigger of coverage, notice, ultimate net loss, pollution exclusions, and earth movement exclusion have all been analyzed and litigated by the Houston Harbaugh attorneys.

Excess and Surplus Lines

Our attorneys work extensively in coverage related issues pertaining to the excess and surplus market. Excess policies provide limits above an underlying liability policy. The underlying liability policy is often an umbrella policy and the excess policy provides additional limits of insurance often following form to the umbrella policy. Issues that often arise in the excess policy arena pertain to allocation, “ultimate net loss” exhaustion and underwriting processes.

Advertising Injury and Intellectual Property Loss

Advertising injury claims include libel, slander or commercial disparagement, trademark and trade dress infringement, copyright infringement, patent infringement, theft of trade secrets, and unfair competition. Issues that arise in this area can include whether the insured’s actions fall within the definition of “advertising injury,” the requirement of a causal connection to injuries, and the applicability of exclusions, including the “knowledge of falsity” exclusion. Our attorneys are experienced in evaluating such claims and counseling insurance carriers on these issues.

Life, Health, and Disability Insurance

Our attorneys have extensive experience representing large, regional, and small insurance companies in litigating claims involving life, disability, long-term care, Medicare supplement, specified-disease and critical illness insurance policies, as well as annuities and retirement plans. Our attorneys have litigated a vast array of issues in relation to these products including, wrongful denial of benefits, rescission of policies, policy lapse issues, beneficiary disputes, and issues involving failure to provide proofs of loss, and are well-acquainted with statutes and regulations that govern these products. Our attorneys also frequently litigate claims for misrepresentation, fraud and violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law asserted against insurance companies and their agents in relation to the sale of life, health and disability policies, as well bad faith claims asserted against insurance companies involving these policies. Additionally, our attorneys have experience representing insurance companies in commission disputes with their brokers and agents with respect to the sale of life, health and disability policies.

Bad Faith and Extra-Contractual Liability

Houston Harbaugh’s attorneys defend insurers in claims involving breach of contract, underwriting practices, consumer fraud and extra-contractual claims.

We work to help minimize insurers’ exposure to bad faith claims by providing practical counsel that is business-minded and legally sound at the claims handling stage. We strive to minimize the chances of an insured using bad faith allegations as a litigation tactic to force payment on claims that may lack merit. We can help formulate strategies to best handle mediations and settlement conferences, with a vision of avoiding bad faith traps.

Bad faith and extra-contractual claims are among the most complex and high-stakes matters that insurance companies face. These claims, if successful, can expose insurance companies to punitive damages, attorneys’ fee awards, and other damages well in excess of insurance policy limits.

These claims are fact-specific and focus on the insurance company’s conduct and claims handling practices rather than the express provisions of the insurance policy. Bad faith claims are often asserted by policyholders against insurance carriers for, among other things, failure to defend or settle third-party claims, wrongful denial of coverage for first-party claims, and unreasonable delay in claims handling.  Our attorneys have years of experience in defending insurance carriers against bad faith claims and have tried to verdict numerous high-stakes bad faith suits, including those arising under the Pennsylvania Bad Faith statute, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8371.