Insurance Coverage Disputes

Businesses and individuals purchase insurance policies with the expectation that, in the event of property damage or injury to either the policy holder or another, they will be protected from the obligation and cost of defending and possibly paying a claim. However, all too frequently insurance companies respond to a submitted claim with a notice of disclaimer, asserting that either the claim is not covered under the policy or that coverage had been forfeited by the conduct of the insured.

It can be understandably frustrating to learn that an insurer has denied a claim – often an insurer will deny coverage even where an insured has paid premiums for years without a claim. We have significant experience in insurance coverage matters, both helping our clients set up advance procedures to handle a claim or occurrence, and to vigorously protect their rights to insurance coverage after an insurer has sought to deny a claim.

We can help our clients reduce the likelihood of an insurance company disclaimer by collaborating with clients and their insurance brokers to review the scope of coverage prior to a policy being bound. By combining our knowledge of insurance provisions and our familiarity with our client’s business operations, we can address problematic endorsements or policy exclusions up front. In one recent example, our client, a self-park parking lot, nearly purchased a liability policy which excluded all liability for incidents involving vehicles driven by non-employees. If the policy had been bound with this endorsement, the insurer could have refused to cover any claim related to a car accident in the lot! Fortunately, because our client consulted with us before the policy was purchased, we were able to address this issue with our client’s insurance broker, who had the exclusion removed from the policy.
When an incident occurs (whether property damage; an accident; or a lawsuit being commenced), it is absolutely essential that notice be provided to all insurance carriers as soon as possible. Courts have held that delays in providing notice to an insurer of as little as one month can cause a complete loss of insurance coverage. Where the potential insurance claim involves a lawsuit, clients should also know they may have the right to select their own counsel to represent them in the litigation, with the counsel fees being paid by the insurance company.

Even if an insurer has denied coverage, all is not lost. We have successfully challenged denials of coverage, both through discussions with the insurer’s coverage counsel and, where necessary, through litigation, where we have experience challenging insurance disclaimers at both the federal and state level.