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Title 38 - Insurance
Proof of loss forms required to be furnished.
When an insurer under an insurance policy requires a written proof of loss after the notice of the loss has been given by the insured or beneficiary, the insurer or its representative shall furnish a blank to be used for that purpose. If the forms are not furnished within twenty days after the receipt of the notice, the claimant is considered to have complied with the requirements of the policy as to proof of loss upon submitting within the time fixed in the policy for filing proofs of loss written proof covering the occurrence, character, and extent of the loss for which claim is made. The twenty-day period after notice of loss to furnish forms applies to all types of insurance unless a lesser time period is specifically provided by law.
Improper claim practices.
Any of the following acts by an insurer doing accident and health insurance, property insurance, casualty insurance, surety insurance, marine insurance, or title insurance business, if committed without just cause and performed with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice, constitutes improper claim practices:
(1) Knowingly misrepresenting to insureds or third-party claimants pertinent facts or policy provisions relating to coverages at issue or providing deceptive or misleading information with respect to coverages.
(2) Failing to acknowledge with reasonable promptness pertinent communications with respect to claims arising under its policies, including third-party claims arising under liability insurance policies.
(3) Failing to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation and settlement of claims, including third-party liability claims, arising under its policies.
(4) Not attempting in good faith to effect prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of claims, including third-party liability claims, submitted to it in which liability has become reasonably clear.
(5) Compelling policyholders or claimants, including third-party claimants under liability policies, to institute suits to recover amounts reasonably due or payable with respect to claims arising under its policies by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered through suits brought by the claimants or through settlements with their attorneys employed as the result of the inability of the claimants to effect reasonable settlements with the insurers.
(6) Offering to settle claims, including third-party liability claims, for an amount less than the amount otherwise reasonably due or payable based upon the possibility or probability that the policyholder or claimant would be required to incur attorneys' fees to recover the amount reasonably due or payable.
(7) Invoking or threatening to invoke policy defenses or to rescind the policy as of its inception, not in good faith and with a reasonable expectation of prevailing with respect to the policy defense or attempted rescission, but for the primary purpose of discouraging or reducing a claim, including a third-party liability claim.
(8) Any other practice which constitutes an unreasonable delay in paying or an unreasonable failure to pay or settle in full claims, including third-party liability claims, arising under coverages provided by its policies.
Notice and hearing by director or designee; penalties.
If, after due notice and hearing, the director or his designee determines that the insurer has engaged in any of the improper claim practices defined in Section 38-59-20, he shall order the insurer to cease and desist from the practice and may impose a penalty as provided in Section 38-2-10. If the penalty is imposed, the penalty may not be considered a cost of the insurer for purposes of determining whether or not the rates of the insurer warrant adjustment.
Liability for attorneys' fees where insurer has refused to pay claim.
(1) In the event of a claim, loss, or damage which is covered by a policy of insurance or a contract of a nonprofit hospital service plan or a medical service corporation and the refusal of the insurer, plan, or corporation to pay the claim within ninety days after a demand has been made by the holder of the policy or contract and a finding on suit of the contract made by the trial judge that the refusal was without reasonable cause or in bad faith, the insurer, plan, or corporation is liable to pay the holder, in addition to any sum or any amount otherwise recoverable, all reasonable attorneys' fees for the prosecution of the case against the insurer, plan, or corporation. The amount of reasonable attorneys' fees must be determined by the trial judge and the amount added to the judgment. The amount of the attorneys' fees may not exceed one-third of the amount of the judgment.
(2) If attorneys' fees are allowed and, on appeal by the defendant, the judgment is affirmed, the Supreme Court or the court of appeals shall allow to the respondent an additional sum as the court adjudges reasonable as attorneys' fees of the respondent on the appeal.
(3) Nothing in this section may be construed to alter or affect the Tyger River Pine Co. v. Maryland Casualty Co., 161 SE 491, 163 SC 229, doctrine.
(4) This section applies to cases filed or removed to federal court and cases appealed in the federal court system.
Payment or settlement of benefits in merchandise or services prohibited.
It is unlawful for an insurer to make payment or settlement of benefits arising under life, endowment, accident, health, or hospitalization policies written by the insurer in merchandise, services rendered or agreed to be rendered, or to issue a policy which provides for settlement in merchandise or services rendered or to be rendered.
An insurer violating this section pays a penalty of ten times the amount of the policy, certificate, or other evidence of insurance to be collected in a suit by the policyholder or his legal representatives or beneficiary. An officer, agent, or servant of an insurer who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined in the discretion of the court or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.