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Punitive Damages in Bad Faith Health Insurance Denial Cases

What are punitive damages? In a civil case, “damages” refers to the financial compensation an injured party can recover from the liable party for the harm they have suffered. Most damages are “compensatory” and include both economic and non-economic aspects. Economic damages include compensation for financial losses, such as medical bills or lost wages due to missed work or disability, while non-economic damages are meant to compensate for harm such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and loss of quality of life. A health insurance claim denial, for example, could result in physical injuries due to delayed or denied medical treatment, as well as the emotional trauma that goes hand in hand with the physical injury and the stress and anxiety of a denied claim.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are not primarily intended to compensate the plaintiff for their loss. Instead, they aim to punish the defendant for especially outrageous conduct and to deter future conduct by the defendant and others by making an example of the defendant and the type of conduct society simply will not tolerate.

While every civil case will likely include compensatory damages, punitive damages are much less common. Under California law, punitive damages can only be awarded when the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice. “Clear and convincing evidence” is a high standard of proof, requiring more than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard required to prove liability and compensatory damages.

Bad Faith Insurance Denials Are Tailor-Made for Punitive Damages

When it comes to bad faith insurance claim denials, however, punitive damages are practically “baked in” to the case itself. The very definition of bad faith conjures up bad acts such as the oppression, fraud and malice anticipated in California’s bad faith statute. Bad faith insurance practices that harm consumers are the very sort of behavior contemplated by the legislature when authorizing punitive damages in appropriate cases.

Gianelli & Morris Handles Bad Faith Insurance Claims With Punitive Damages in California

Although punitive damages may be harder to prove, our Californiainsurance bad faith attorneys at Gianelli & Morris have years of experience and expertise proving bad faith and seeking punitive damages. Through these cases, we help our clients receive the maximum compensation available to deal with the harm they suffered while holding insurance companies accountable, often forcing them to change their ways for the benefit of all policyholders in the future.

If you have been unfairly treated with regard to a health, life or disability insurance claim in California, call Gianelli & Morris in Los Angeles at 213-489-1600 for a free consultation to discuss your case.

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