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Insurance Law

Insurance Law

Insurance questions arise in a variety of areas including automobile insurance, homeowners insurance, general liability insurance, life insurance, etc. Insurance is meant to provide coverage contingent upon the happening of a risk causing harm. We most often see insurance issues arise as an offshoot of a claim for personal injury. Oftentimes claimants are told by an insurance agent or adjuster that the policy does not cover a loss. However, courts are the ultimate decision maker. Montana courts have traditionally construed insurance policies liberally in favor of providing coverage. Courts tend to interpret insurance policies to afford coverage for losses. If an insurance company refuses to pay, a competent attorney can take the insurance company to court for a determination whether there is coverage.
Duckworth Law has handled some groundbreaking insurance law cases in Montana including:

Hardy v. Progressive, 315 Mont. 107 (2003)
In a groundbreaking decision for Montana automobile insurance law, the Court declared the Montana anti-stacking statute unconstitutional. The Montana Supreme Court additionally held that: (1) the offset provision in the insurance agreement violated public policy; (2) the anti-stacking provision was against public policy and a statute, to the extent that it allowed charging premiums for illusory coverage, was unconstitutional; and (3) policies, under which an insurer received consideration for coverage, that contained provisions that defeated that coverage were against public policy.

Bartell v. American Home Assur. Co., 310 Mont. 276 (2002)
The supreme court held that an automobile policy issued in the State of Montana with respect to a motor vehicle registered and maintained in Montana that provided that any vehicle or equipment owned by any governmental unit or agency could not be an uninsured motor vehicle violated the statutory law and the public policy of Montana.

Ike v. Jefferson Nat. Life Ins. Co, 267 Mont. 396 (1994)
The plaintiff died of pulmonary aspiration while allegedly intoxicated and his estate filed a claim for accidental death benefits. The plaintiff was awarded accidental death and after hearing oral argument, the Supreme Court affirmed the District Court’s decision to award benefits to the plaintiff.

Insurance Law—Bad Faith

When an insurance company acts particularly badly, there can be a legal action filed for bad faith. There are actions for both common law and statutory bad faith.

Statutory bad faith stems from the Montana Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA). Many of the nuts and bolts of a bad faith claim are set forth in MCA 33-18-242 and MCA 33-18-201. In particular, 201 articulates various line item acts that constitute bad faith. Bad faith claims are not something you are likely to discover on your own and require the help of an attorney experienced in bad faith claims.

Additionally, there are specific statute of limitations that apply and can trip you up. Per MCA 33-18-242:

(7) The period prescribed for commencement of an action under this section is:

(a) for an insured, within 2 years from the date of the violation of 33-18-201; and
(b) for a third-party claimant, within 1 year from the date of the settlement of or the entry of judgment on the underlying claim.

It can be difficult to tell when a claim accrues, so please speak with a lawyer ASAP if there is a possible question of bad faith.

Additionally, Montana recognizes common law bad faith. In Brewington v. Employers Fire Insurance Co., 1999 MT 312, 992 P.2d 237 (Jan. 13, 2000), the Montana Supreme held that third-party claimants could maintain claims for common law bad faith.

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The information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Nothing on this website is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with an attorney regarding your individual case.