How much time do our clients have to bring a bad faith action against an insurer? Although we are not frequently asked this question, it is one that we constantly analyze before asserting a bad faith claim.
To answer this question, we look to the statute of limitations, which is a law passed by a state legislative body that sets the maximum amount of time for a party to bring a claim based upon a particular cause of action. For policyholders, knowing which statute of limitations applies to their bad faith claim is critical because it indicates whether it is possible to initiate legal proceedings. In addition, it determines the amount in damages available in case of a successful resolution.
Statute of Limitations in Breach of Contract vs. Tort Claims
One key determinant of a statute of limitations for bad faith is whether the claim is brought as a tort or a breach of contract action. The consequence of framing bad faith as a tort is that a policyholder is not just limited to contract damages. The policyholder can also receive recourse for emotional distress, pain, suffering, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and other damages that the court may consider appropriate. Unfortunately, however, not every jurisdiction allows plaintiffs to bring bad faith actions as tort claims. While, for example, courts in California, Colorado, and Connecticut allow bad faith claims sounding in tort, courts in jurisdictions such as Tennessee do not.