Is an insurance company not reimbursing you for the full amount of your claim? You have several options including submitting a complaint to the California Department of Insurance. Just because an insurance company tells you they won't reimburse you for your costs, doesn't mean that they are legally correct.
This article outlines the following ways to resolve your dispute against an insurance company:
- File a complaint with the California Department of Insurance
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau ("BBB")
- File a small claims court lawsuit
California Department of Insurance
What is the California Department of Insurance?
The California Department of Insurance is a government agency that regulates insurance companies operating in California.
They issue insurance licenses, investigate consumer complaints, and enforce the rules that insurance companies have to follow.
Don't forget to always review insurance company complaints before purchasing insurance!
What types of complaints does the California Department of Insurance handle?
The California Department of Insurance handles a broad range of complaints against insurance companies. Here are some examples:
- When an insurance company fails to reimburse you for a claim.
- When an insurance company fails to respond to you.
- When you think an insurance company is acting in bad faith.
- When you think an insurance company adjuster is giving you an unfair offer.
- When an insurance company has improperly denied your claim.
Remember, just because an insurance company has denied your claim doesn't mean that the insurance company acted legally. It is up to a judge to decide whether the insurance company should have reimbursed you for your claim (you can also have the Department of Insurance make a determination).
Consumer Guides from the California Department of Insurance
The Department of Insurance has published guides for dealing with different types of insurance companies. Here are some quick links:
- Auto Insurance
- Health Insurance
- Homeowners Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Pet Insurance
- Business Insurance
- Bail Bond Insurance
The Department of Insurance also publishes common laws and regulations that apply to disputes with insurance companies.
How to File a Complaint with the California Department of Insurance
You can also contact their consumer hotline for more information: 1-800-927-4357
The California Department of Insurance will conduct an investigation of your complaint against the insurance company. They will review any supporting evidence you chose to upload and they will reach out to the insurance company for a response. Make sure you create an account on the Department of Insurance's website so you can follow the status of your complaint!
What happens if your Department of Insurance complaint isn't resolved? You may want to try suing in a California small claims court or filing a complaint with the BBB.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Complaints Against an Insurance Company
What is the BBB?
The BBB is a non-profit that serves as an intermediary between insurance companies and consumers.
Reasons Why Some Insurance Companies Respond to BBB Complaints
- If the insurance company is accredited with the BBB and they don't respond to a BBB complaint, their accreditation may be revoked and the complaint becomes part of their BBB profile.
- If the insurance company is not accredited with the BBB, the complaint will become part of their BBB profile.
- BBB reviews provide other consumers with confidence when engaging with an insurance company. Insurance companies do not want negative BBB complaints.
What types of complaints against insurance companies does the BBB handle?
The BBB handles a broad range of complaints against insurance companies. Here are some examples:
- If your insurance company fails to pay after a car accident.
- If your insurance company denies a claim in bad faith.
- If your insurance company does not pay for all costs on a covered claim.
- The insurance company is overcharging you for the premiums.
- The insurance company did not reimburse you after you made payments to fix your car.
How to file a complaint against an insurance company with the BBB
- Click here to go to the Better Business Bureau website.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the button “Start Your Complaint.”
What to Expect Once you Submit your Complaint to the BBB
- The BBB will forward your complaint to the insurance company within 2 business days.
- The insurance company will be asked to respond within 14 days, and if a response is not received, a second request will be made.
- You will be notified of the insurance company’s response when the BBB receives it (or notified that they received no response).
- Complaints against insurance companies are usually closed within 30 business days.
What to do if no agreement is reached after a BBB complaint? You may want to try suing in a California small claims court
California Small Claims Court
Suing an insurance company is a very common type of small claims lawsuit. Make sure to review your insurance policy for any requirements prior to filing a lawsuit.
What types of lawsuits can be filed against an insurance company in small claims?
Many types of lawsuits can be filed against an insurance company, the most common ones are over:
- Failure to pay after a car accident.
- Bad faith denial of a claim.
- Failure to pay for all costs on a covered claim.
- Premium overcharges.
- Failure to reimburse for expenses after a car accident.
- Failure to quickly pay a claim.
Small Claims Court Limits
If you are owed for more than the amount you can sue for, you can still sue for the maximum amount allowed, but you will need to waive any additional amount over the limit.
What are the California Small Claims Court Filing Fees?
The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in California depends on how much you are suing for. You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit. If cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees.
What are other costs for Small Claims Court?
In most small claims cases, you can expect to pay:
If you win, you can request that the losing party pay for your court fees and serving costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do I need a lawyer to go to court? No, in fact, California does not allow lawyers to represent you at the initial small claims hearing.
- What are small claims hearings like in California? The hearings are quick and on average are 10-15 minutes. Learn more here.
- How long does small claims take? A court usually schedules the small claims hearing no later than 70 days from when the lawsuit is filed. Learn more here.