You’re In Bad (Faith) Hands — Illegal Insurance Claims Practices

Health, property, casualty, fire, flood, automobile, truck, workers’ compensation, disability, and life insurers deny claims all the time for various reasons.  If you believe that the claim denial was wrong, you may have two possible claims.

One claim is for breach of contract.  An insurance policy is a contractual agreement enforceable like any other contract.  If you pay your premiums and comply with your obligations under your insurance policy, any claim you present within the coverage terms of the policy should be honored.   If your claim is denied, at a minimum you have a breach of contract claim against your insurer.

In some circumstances of especially egregious behavior by an insurer, you may have a claim for insurance bad faith.  That occurs when an insurer denies a claim without a reasonable basis for the denial and essentially commits an intentional breach of its insurance contract with you.  If you can prove insurance bad faith, you not only can recover the value of the claim but possibly also punitive damages.

Please contact Erbe Law Firm for a free in-person consultation if you believe that your insurance company has wrongfully denied your insurance claim.

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Illegal Or Unlawful Debt Collection Practices Or Collection Agencies

Just because you owe someone or something money doesn’t mean that your life has to be ruined.  Debt collectors and collection agencies are strictly regulated by a federal law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  The law has many provisions, which can be summarized into several types of debt collection rules or regulations.  The Act prohibits certain types of “abusive and deceptive” conduct when attempting to collect debts, including the following:

  • Hours for phone contact: contacting consumers by telephone outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time
  • Failure to cease communication upon request: communicating with consumers in any way (other than litigation) after receiving written notice that said consumer wishes no further communication or refuses to pay the alleged debt, with certain exceptions, including advising that collection efforts are being terminated or that the collector intends to file a lawsuit or pursue other remedies where permitted
  • Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously: with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
  • Communicating with consumers at their place of employment after having been advised that this is unacceptable or prohibited by the employer
  • Contacting consumer known to be represented by an attorney
  • Communicating with consumer after request for validation: communicating with the consumer or the pursuing collection efforts by the debt collector after receipt of a consumer’s written request for verification of a debt (or for the name and address of the original creditor on a debt) and before the debt collector mails the consumer the requested verification or original creditor’s name and address
  • Misrepresentation or deceit: misrepresenting the debt or using deception to collect the debt, including a debt collector’s misrepresentation that he or she is an attorney or with law enforcement
  • Publishing the consumer’s name or address on a “bad debt” list
  • Seeking unjustified amounts, which would include demanding any amounts not permitted under an applicable contract or as provided under applicable law
  • Threatening arrest or legal action that is either not permitted or not actually contemplated
  • Abusive or profane language used in the course of communication related to the debt
  • Communication with third parties: revealing or discussing the nature of debts with third parties (other than the consumer’s spouse or attorney) or threatening such action
  • Contact by embarrassing media, such as communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card, or using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business
  • Reporting false information on a consumer’s credit report or threatening to do so

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows you to recover money damages and attorney fees if you prove that a collection agency or debt collector violated the law.  Please contact Erbe Law Firm for a free in-person consultation if you believe that a debt collector or collection agency has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Building, Home, Construction Defects

You may have legal claims against a builder, contractor, or subcontractor if you have building, construction, water, roofing, mold, moisture, foundation, framing, insulation, heating, cooling, concrete, sidewalk, or driveway issues or problems with your home.   You do not need an express warranty or written warranty to make a claim or file suit against your builder, contractor, or subcontractor.  Iowa law also allows you to sue based on an implied warranty or possibly even negligence even if you do not have a written warranty or the warranty has expired.

Additionally, in the 2008 Iowa Supreme Court case of Speight v. Walters Development Company, Erbe Law Firm successfully argued that the protections against poor or defective construction should be extended to all owners of a home, not just the original purchasers.  So even if you are not the first owner of your home, you can still make a claim against any builder, contractor, or subcontractor that worked on the house at any time.

Please contact Erbe Law Firm to schedule a free in-person consultation if you believe that you have a construction defect claim involving a builder, contractor, or subcontractor.

Motorcycle Crashes And Accidents

I am an avid motorcyclist.  I ride to the office when the weather is good.  Motorcycling is my main outdoor activity during the warmer months.  So I know firsthand the chill of approaching an intersection and wondering if the minivan driver trying to control three kids while talking on a cell phone will see me on my bike before crossing in front of me as I’m going through the intersection.  I have had drivers cross in front of me, turn left in front of me, turn right in front of me, try to merge lanes when I’m right next to them, and even rear-end me at a stoplight (I was fine, other than getting knocked to the ground, but my exhaust pipe was cracked and had to be replaced).

I have represented motorcyclists to recover medical, hospital, and surgery costs or expenses and lost wages in past accident lawsuits after they were hurt or injured in a motorcycle crash, accident, wreck, or collision.  Sometimes the cases were minor and just involved broken or fractured bones and physical therapy.  Other involving disabled motorcyclists or riders were more serious and included permanent injuries and disability.

Being a motorcycle rider or motorcyclist helps me better understand what the rider was thinking, doing, and seeing before the crash, accident, wreck, or collision.  That is important because there is a significant bias against motorcycle riders in injury claims or lawsuits.  Regardless of what the other driver did wrong, juries assume that an injured motorcycle rider was speeding or doing something else dangerous (like riding a motorcycle in the first place) that helped cause the crash.  It is thus crucial to hire an attorney who can best evaluate and explain to the jury the motorcyclist’s actions before the crash.

The most common argument I hear in these case is “he probably wasn’t wearing a helmet.”  Iowa law does not require motorcyclists to wear a helmet, and helmets only protect a small part of the body anyways.  How would a helmet prevent broken or fractured bones from the shoulders down?  Luckily, in the 1991 case of Meyer v. City of Des Moines, the Iowa Supreme Court decided that a motorcycle rider’s failure to wear a helmet is not admissible on the issue of the other driver’s liability.  With appropriate medical evidence, however, lack of helmet use may be relevant on damages if the motorcycle rider is making a claim for head or skull injuries.

Please contact Erbe Law Firm to schedule a free in-person consultation if you believe that you have a personal injury or wrongful death claim because of a motorcycle crash or accident.

What’s That Smell? — Nuisance Law Part III

In my previous posts I talked about the application of private nuisance law principles to noisy or loud businesses, factories, and warehouses in Des Moines, West Des Moines, Clive, Urbandale, Waukee, and the surrounding areas and the light and glare that they can also cause.   Nuisance law also protects you from smells, odors, or fumes from such operations near your property or home.

Please contact Erbe Law Firm for a free in-person consultation with an attorney if you are experiencing a similar situation and would like to discuss the possibility of a private nuisance claim.

Get That Light Out Of My Eyes — Nuisance Law Part II

In my last post I talked about the application of private nuisance law principles to noisy or loud businesses, factories, and warehouses in Des Moines, West Des Moines, Clive, Urbandale, Waukee, and the surrounding areas.  Noise and vibrations are common issues if you live near such an operation.  Those businesses can also cause light and glare that shines onto your property and house.  At night, that can make it difficult to sleep, even with the shades or blinds drawn.  Nuisance law also protects you from intrusions of light or glare onto your property.

Please contact Erbe Law Firm for a free in-person consultation with an attorney if you are experiencing a similar situation and would like to discuss the possibility of a private nuisance claim.

Hey! Keep It Down Over There! — Nuisance Law Part I

Do you live near a noisy factory, warehouse, or other type of business?  Do you have to put up with trucks and heavy machinery rumbling and banging and booming all day or, worse yet, all night?  Are you feeling vibrations that make you wonder whether the space shuttle just lifted off from your back yard?  If so, you may have a legal claim for “private nuisance.”  Private nuisance law principles apply to noisy or loud businesses, factories, and warehouses in Des Moines, West Des Moines, Clive, Urbandale, Waukee, and the surrounding areas.

“Private nuisance” refers to situations in which persons or businesses use their land in a manner that unreasonably interferes with other landowners’ use and enjoyment of their land.  A private nuisance claim can include noise and vibrations if they’re bad enough.  Possible damages in a private nuisance case include loss of property value, damages for physical injuries, damages for irritation, discomfort, and annoyance, and even punitive damages.

Maybe your local government has allowed the construction of a new business or changed the permissible use (for example, through zoning) of property near your home or business.  Perhaps you challenged the proposed government action and lost.  Do you now have to live with the noisy new business in your backyard?  Probably, but you may also be able to recover the types of damages described above, especially if you built and occupied your home before the warehouse or factory was in place.  The fact that your local government has allowed the building, even the fact that you challenged the building and lost, does not prevent you from making a claim for a private nuisance.  A business that is operated in full compliance with all applicable laws can still be judged a nuisance by a court.

So if you are facing this type of situation, don’t give up just because your local government didn’t support you.  Erbe Law Firm is currently representing a group of homeowners against a local developer in a suit concerning noise and vibrations from the developer’s warehouse.  Erbe Law Firm’s clients challenged several of the developer’s proposals before their local government and lost.  With Erbe Law Firm’s help, they have now turned to their last resort, the courts.

Please contact Erbe Law Firm for a free in-person consultation with an attorney if you are experiencing a similar situation and would like to discuss the possibility of a private nuisance claim.