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WA Puts New “Insurance Fair Conduct” Law to Use

December 2, 2008

Olympia, WA – It's been one year this week since the hotly-debated Referendum 67 became law. Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct Act created a process for consumers who feel their insurance companies have not promptly and fairly settled a valid claim. It requires insurance companies to deal in good faith when settling claims, or risk having to pay a policyholder triple damages if the company ends up losing the case in court.

This year, about 900 people have notified the Washington State Insurance Commissioner's office that they plan to sue their insurance companies, which gives the companies one last chance to rethink their handling of the claim. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says some insurers have increased training for their adjusters to avoid problems under the new law.

"If that's one of the outcomes of Referendum 67, that is very positive from the standpoint of consumers – that they're dealing with better-trained adjusters who are going to make the determination on their particular claim."

The insurance industry fought Referendum 67, saying it would raise insurance rates and create more lawsuits. Kreidler feels it's too early to see exactly what impact the law is having, but says those warnings don't appear to have come true.

"When the law went into effect, there were some insurance companies that actually came forward and said, 'We want to build in a cost factor for Referendum 67.' We denied them the ability to do that, because they had no experience to show that it, in fact, would cause their rates to go up."

The Insurance Commissioner's office is tracking the numbers and types of cases and will do some random follow-ups in the coming year. For now, Kreidler says he's pleased with the Insurance Fair Conduct Act for giving consumers more clout with their insurance companies.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA