The phrase might not appear profound, but it is. To a large degree, it’s the idea that underpins international relations. It’s the logic behind mutual defense treaties; an attack or aggression perpetrated against one member state is equivalent to an assault on all. By extension it also means that the authority of member states is equal, representing a united front.
Parents deal with this principle all the time. When precocious children make the same request of two different parents they’re hoping a “divide and conquer” approach will allow them to get what they want. Effective parenting requires that same level of united front – parental authority must carry equal weight.
The US constitution preserves this concept too, most famously in Article IV Section I, better known as “the full faith and credit clause,” which requires the laws of one state to be recognized by others.
Insurance Company vs. Insurance Agent
With this degree of cultural and legal precedent, it’s surprising then, that insurance companies – particularly those exhibiting bad faith insurance practices – sometimes argue that insurance companies and their agents are not of equal authority, but insurance agent’s conduct can be imputed to and bind the insurance company. Insurance bad faith is a legal term of art when insurance companies behave unreasonably and/or act in an unfair or arbitrary manner after a claim is made.
In a case Viau & Kwasniewski litigated, an insurance company tried to circumvent its legal obligation to its client. In February 2010, wind driven rain inundated the insured’s home through a hole in the roof, caused in part by damaged tiles. The rain saturated the home’s drywall, damaged floor tiles, caused widespread mold and warped and caused damage to the interior cabinets.
Following the flood, the client immediately contacted their insurance agent, believing, correctly, that the agent was serving as an insurance company proxy, based on advertising that said the insurance company’s agents provide “superior service” and “personal attention.” Initially the parent company argued that notice to the agent is not the same as notice to the main insurance provider. The insurance company used this argument to claim that they did not receive notice of the damages until August, more than half a year after the flood.
Ensuring Insurance Companies Play by the Rules
But case law has put this attempted defense to rest on multiple occasions. Insurance agents act on behalf of and for their insurance companies. That means when a client reaches out to their insurance agent, they are, in effect, reaching out to the insurance company and entitled to a good faith investigation of their claim and timely resolution. As demonstrated by Viau & Kwasniewski litigation, these reasonable expectations never materialized and resulted in the insurance company settling the case by compensating the insured fully after litigation fees and costs were paid.
In the nearly two weeks since my first blog on this topic, California’s weather pattern has shifted. Snow and rain are again inundating our state, beginning to chip away at an historic drought. But intense rains might cause a flood of new insurance claims. If you are working with an insurance agent rather than an insurance company and feel your claim is not being handled in an appropriate manner contact Viau & Kwasniewski via phone at 1-800-663-1095 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.