Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct Act, RCW 48.30.015, was passed by the state legislature and approved by the voters via Referendum 67 becoming effective December 6, 2007. Washington is one of a handful of states that has passed this type of "consumer protection" legislation though many more states are following suit. This act is in no way a "toothless tiger" like some legislation, but in fact is a very powerful set of laws designed to get insurance companies under control to stop their industry wide unfair acts and deceptive practices. The insurance industry spent a record amount of money trying to defeat Referendum 67 but they were unsucessful probably because the majority of voters in Washington have had at least one unpleasant experience with their own insurance company. Let's face it, insurance companies are in business to make money and they don't like to pay out claims, even legitimate ones. Perhaps people have seen the John Grisham (attorney turned author) movie where one scene shows an insurance adjuster admitting that even with legitimate claims they (adjusters) are trained to send a first letter of "denial" to the insured. This then starts the extremely time consuming harassing and frustrating process of you trying to obtain benefits owed to you under your contract/policy of insurance. Yes, an insurance policy is a simple contract, no more no less despite the multiple pages of complex and vague verbiage that is purposely designed to confuse and intimidate you into accepting the adjuster's reasons for denial and/or limitation of your claims. Insurance companies are heavily into "statistical analysis" and they know that a certain percentage of claimants will simply give up and forgo any legitmate benefits since they can't deal with this bureacratic shuffle. Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct Act puts an end to these industry wide practices as follows:
1) This act only applies to first party (your own) insurance coverages and not third party
(other person) coverages.
2) This act does not apply to health insurance.
3) The act specifically lists types of unfair acts or deceptive practices that are prohibited.
These acts and practices are listed in WAC (Washington Administrative Code) 284-30-330,350,360,370, & 380.
4) The prohibited acts listed in these WAC's do not exclude other unfair acts or deceptive
practices and the courts have the power (via litigation) to decide if a non-listed unfair act or
deceptive practice still comes within the purview and purposes of Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct
5) Most importantly, if the insured establishes a violation of one of these unfair acts or deceptive
practices the court is mandated (i.e. no discretion is allowed to the judge) to award the insured his
or her a) actual damages sustained b) reasonable attorney fees c) actual and statutory litigation
costs, including expert witness fees.
6) The court further has discretion (not mandatory) to award punitive damages in an amount not to
exceed three times the actual damages.
Attorney Robert W. Critchlow was able to use this act when it first became law to achieve a substantial settlement for a client in Spokane, WA. with just the threat of litigtion (act requires you to send written 20 day notice prior to filing suit). This proves how powerful this legislation is and why the insurance companies spent record amounts of money to defeat Referendum 67. If you have any questions about this call Critchlow Law Office today.