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48.30.010  <<  48.30.015 >>   48.30.020

RCW 48.30.015

Unreasonable denial of a claim for coverage or payment of benefits.

(1) Any first party claimant to a policy of insurance who is unreasonably denied a claim for coverage or payment of benefits by an insurer may bring an action in the superior court of this state to recover the actual damages sustained, together with the costs of the action, including reasonable attorneys' fees and litigation costs, as set forth in subsection (3) of this section.

     (2) The superior court may, after finding that an insurer has acted unreasonably in denying a claim for coverage or payment of benefits or has violated a rule in subsection (5) of this section, increase the total award of damages to an amount not to exceed three times the actual damages.

     (3) The superior court shall, after a finding of unreasonable denial of a claim for coverage or payment of benefits, or after a finding of a violation of a rule in subsection (5) of this section, award reasonable attorneys' fees and actual and statutory litigation costs, including expert witness fees, to the first party claimant of an insurance contract who is the prevailing party in such an action.

     (4) "First party claimant" means an individual, corporation, association, partnership, or other legal entity asserting a right to payment as a covered person under an insurance policy or insurance contract arising out of the occurrence of the contingency or loss covered by such a policy or contract.

     (5) A violation of any of the following is a violation for the purposes of subsections (2) and (3) of this section:

     (a) WAC 284-30-330, captioned "specific unfair claims settlement practices defined";

     (b) WAC 284-30-350, captioned "misrepresentation of policy provisions";

     (c) WAC 284-30-360, captioned "failure to acknowledge pertinent communications";

     (d) WAC 284-30-370, captioned "standards for prompt investigation of claims";

     (e) WAC 284-30-380, captioned "standards for prompt, fair and equitable settlements applicable to all insurers"; or

     (f) An unfair claims settlement practice rule adopted under RCW 48.30.010 by the insurance commissioner intending to implement this section. The rule must be codified in chapter 284-30 of the Washington Administrative Code.

     (6) This section does not limit a court's existing ability to make any other determination regarding an action for an unfair or deceptive practice of an insurer or provide for any other remedy that is available at law.

     (7) This section does not apply to a health plan offered by a health carrier. "Health plan" has the same meaning as in RCW 48.43.005. "Health carrier" has the same meaning as in RCW 48.43.005.

     (8)(a) Twenty days prior to filing an action based on this section, a first party claimant must provide written notice of the basis for the cause of action to the insurer and office of the insurance commissioner. Notice may be provided by regular mail, registered mail, or certified mail with return receipt requested. Proof of notice by mail may be made in the same manner as prescribed by court rule or statute for proof of service by mail. The insurer and insurance commissioner are deemed to have received notice three business days after the notice is mailed.

     (b) If the insurer fails to resolve the basis for the action within the twenty-day period after the written notice by the first party claimant, the first party claimant may bring the action without any further notice.

     (c) The first party claimant may bring an action after the required period of time in (a) of this subsection has elapsed.

     (d) If a written notice of claim is served under (a) of this subsection within the time prescribed for the filing of an action under this section, the statute of limitations for the action is tolled during the twenty-day period of time in (a) of this subsection.

[2007 c 498 § 3 (Referendum Measure No. 67, approved November 6, 2007).]

Notes:

     Short title -- 2007 c 498: "This act may be known and cited as the insurance fair conduct act." [2007 c 498 § 1.]