How to Determine When to File an Insurance Claim vs. Lawsuit

Filing a claim for property damage, after a natural disaster, is an example of telling your insurance company that you are seeking assistance from them, in the form of financial compensation, in order to rebuild your home, other such domestic property, and/or your business.

If you feel that it is necessary to be represented by an attorney who specializes in this particular field of law, then the first step, in this process, will be to have your attorney send a letter to your insurance company.  This letter will inform the insurance company to not contact you in the future, but rather contact your attorney who will be handling your claim.  It is during this time that your attorney will properly assess how much money the insurance company actually owes you, based on the damage to your property and the nature of your insurance policy that was in place before any damage.  The document that your attorney sends to the insurance company on your behalf is called a demand package, which will describe your property damages in detail, your pre-existing insurance policy, and any other compensation that you may be eligible to receive for any particular reason.  Your insurance company will then be given a specific amount of time to assess and respond to both your claim and the damages to your property.  

If the insurance company’s offer does not meet the deadline set by your lawyer and/or is deemed unsatisfactory, then a lawsuit will be filed by your attorney on your behalf.

If filing a lawsuit is deemed necessary, this means that your insurance claim could not be resolved by you and your insurance company, as well as both sets of legal teams, without the involvement of the courts.  An agreement could not be reached during the claim phase or the allotted time for the claim phase simply ran out,and to avoid losing the momentum that your case has built up with the insurance company, your only choice left is to sue your insurance company.  

A lawsuit will be brought by your attorney, who will file a Summons and Complaint with the County Clerk’s Office, near where your insurance company’s headquarters is located.  Your lawyer must file the proper paperwork within a certain amount of time.  The insurance company will then be served by a member of the court system with a notice of complaint, which informs them of the lawsuit’s specifics, like the details of your history with the insurance company, what you are seeking from them financially, and a detailed documented description of the damage sustained by your property.  

The insurance company will have a certain amount of time to answer the complaint, which will detail their responses, which might consist of why the insurance company is unwilling to pay your insurance claim and a direct response to your allegations against them.  Written questions and documents will next be exchanged by your lawyer and the insurance company’s legal team.  This is known as the discovery phase.  Sometimes, it is during discovery that depositions (documented, yet not-in-a-courtroom setting testimonials) may be taken to flesh out the facts of the case before the case goes to trial.  

On occasion, during depositions, the true facts of the case might reveal themselves, causing a settlement agreement to be met between your lawyer and the insurance company’s lawyers.  This situation avoids the legal costs and headaches that come with a trial of any length.

However, if the case does not settle before trial, it will be decided by a 12-person jury as to whether or not you need, deserve, and/or have the right to any compensation and, if so, how much compensation is owed to you by your insurance company.  

Ideally, an insurance company will operate in good faith and compensate you fairly according to your filed claim, but sometimes that is not the case. If you should need to file a lawsuit, our team here at Williams Kherker is prepared to help you navigate through this challenging time. Please contact our office at any time for more information.

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