Insurance Coverage Litigation & Analysis
Practicing insurance defense across a wide spectrum of policy areas in Texas, the attorneys at Bishop & Hummert, P.C. possess the knowledge, background and skill to engage in effective coverage analysis and litigation at the start of any first party or third party claims process.
A threshold issue in many insurance defense cases is to determine whether coverage and liability even applies. With extensive experience in the field of insurance law, our attorneys are thoroughly familiar with insurance policy terms and conditions and applying those terms to the facts in a particular claim. Our coverage analysis includes rendering a professional legal opinion letter based on a thorough review and sound, informed interpretation of the policy. Often times, this opinion letter will help to resolve the matter early or provide important information for developing a strategy for loss prevention and risk management in the matter at hand.
When the question of coverage remains in dispute between the insurance company and its insured, litigation may be required. Initially, the matter may be resolved through a declaratory judgment, which is a special preliminary action used to determine the rights and obligations between parties as to a particular legal matter. A hearing on a declaratory judgment can be a complex matter, and often the insured need only prove that a potential for coverage exists in order to have the judgment resolved in its favor.
Whether for legal or practical considerations, an insurer may choose to defend an insured under a reservation of rights rather than flatly deny coverage. The reservation of rights allows the underlying case to proceed, while protecting the carrier's right to deny coverage in the event of a judgment against the insured if it determines the claim is not covered, either through its own analysis or by a declaratory judgment.
First Party Claims Litigation
Disputes over coverage and the handling of claims may take many forms, and the insured may accuse the insurance company of acting in bad faith in any number of ways. We defend the insurer against such claims relating to the denial of benefits, the duty to investigate a claim, unreasonable delay in processing a claim, the duty to defend or accept a third party's settlement demand, or rescission of the insurance contract.
Third Party Claims Litigation
The insurer's obligation to its insured is to settle and pay claims in accordance with the policy. In the context of third party claims, it can be said that the obligation of the insurance company is to protect the insured from a judgment in excess of the policy limits. Fulfilling this obligation may include a duty to settle, to accept a reasonable settlement demand, or to defend the insured in a legal action brought by the third party. Our attorneys engage in an extensive insurance defense practice, so if the decision is made to litigate the underlying matter, we will vigorously defend the claim with the knowledge and skills gained from years of civil trial experience.
Between the Stowers doctrine established by Texas courts and common law principles of extra-contractual liability, insurance companies can sometimes find themselves liable for amounts over and above the policy limits for which they have contracted. For instance, if an insurance carrier is found to have unreasonably refused a settlement demand which was within the policy limits and later loses in court which causes a judgment against the insured beyond the policy limits, the carrier can be required to pay the entire amount of the judgment. Our coverage litigation practice extends to defending carriers against Stowers claims for extra-contractual liability.
Experience Across the Spectrum of Insurance Litigation
Bishop & Hummert provides analysis and litigation for the following types of coverage:
- Commercial General Liability (CGL)
- Personal and Business Automobile
- Excess and Umbrella Coverage
- Director and Officer Liability
- Clergyman and Church Policies
- Farm and Ranch Policies
- Recreational Vehicle (watercraft, ATV, etc.)
The firm also has a record of representing policyholders in select cases which do not present a conflict with the firm's representation of its insurance carrier clients. For sound professional advice and counseling regarding the issue of coverage, and effective advocacy in the event of litigation, contact Bishop & Hummert, P.C.