For the filing fee of approximately $250, anyone can file a bad faith lawsuit. Just saying an insurance company acted in bad faith is not proof. Words are easy to say. Some people jump to the conclusion that there is bad faith when there isn’t any. There is a significant difference in filing papers at the courthouse and actually winning a trial. Filing a bad faith lawsuit means writing words on a legal document. Proving bad faith in a trial means providing evidence to the court of the bad faith.
In order to prove bad faith there must be admissible evidence.
Not all evidence is admissible. For example, courts generally do not allow hearsay evidence. As another example, evidence that is not relevant is excluded from trial. Judges look at the information you want to give the jury, then make legal decisions about the admissibility.
To prove bad faith, the person who sued typically must have evidence to show:
- the insurance policy required the insurance company to pay the claim,
- the insurer unreasonably refused to pay the claim,
- the company did not deal fairly and in good faith, and
- the actions caused injuries or damages.
Judges will nearly always review the evidence before there is a trial. It is common for the insurer to file a motion for summary judgment. The motion asks the court to rule no bad faith exists. The judge will dismiss the the bad faith claim if the policyholder cannot convince the court ample evidence is present to proceed.
If the court finds there is a minimum amount of evidence, then the case will go to trial. The jury will only be given the admissible evidence. After the witnesses testify and exhibits are admitted, the jury will decide if bad faith occurred.
Bad faith lawsuits tend to be highly charged and contentious. The decision by the judge in granting summary judgment and/or the jury’s decision may not be the final step. It is normal to see appeals of the decision.
On appeal, the appellate judges look at the facts to see if there is really bad faith. Even if a jury says the actions were bad faith, the appellate courts may disagree. The judges hearing the appeals have the final authority to decide what is or is not bad faith.
In Oklahoma it takes a lot more than filing a lawsuit for there to be bad faith. Without proper evidence, the bad faith lawsuit is going to be dismissed before trial. This area of law is best suited for experienced legal counsel familiar with the rules and applicable law.