Section 2695.7. Prompt and Equitable Settlements

(a) No insurer shall discriminate in its claims settlement practices based upon the claimant’s race, gender, income, religion, language, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin, or physical disability, or upon the territory of the property or person insured.

(b) Upon receiving proof of claim, every insurer … shall immediately, but in no event more than forty (40) calendar days later, accept or deny the claim, in whole or in part.

(1) Where an insurer denies or rejects a first party claim, in whole or in part, it shall do so in writing and shall provide to the claimant a statement listing all bases for such rejection or denial and the factual and legal bases for each reason given for such rejection or denial which is then within the insurer’s knowledge. Where an insurer’s denial of a first party claim, in whole or in part, is based on a specific policy provision, condition or exclusion, the written denial shall include reference thereto and provide an explanation of the application of the provision, condition or exclusion to the claim. Every insurer that denies or rejects a third party claim, in whole or in part, or disputes liability or damages shall do so in writing.

(2) Subject to the provisions of subsection 2695.7(k), nothing contained in subsection 2695.7(b)(1) shall require an insurer to disclose any information that could reasonably be expected to alert a claimant to the fact that the subject claim is being investigated as a suspected fraudulent claim.

(3) Written notification pursuant to this subsection shall include a statement that, if the claimant believes the claim has been wrongfully denied or rejected, he or she may have the matter reviewed by the California Department of Insurance, and shall include the address and telephone number of the unit of the Department which reviews claims practices….

(c)        (1) If more time is required than is allotted in subsection 2695.7(b) to determine whether a claim should be accepted and/or denied in whole or in part, then, every insurer shall provide the claimant, within the time frame specified in subsection 2695.7(b), with written notice of the need for additional time. This written notice shall specify any additional information the insurer requires in order to make a determination and state any continuing reasons for the insurer’s inability to make a determination. Thereafter, the written notice shall be provided every thirty (30) calendar days until a determination is made or notice of legal action is served. If the determination cannot be made until some future event occurs, then the insurer shall comply with this continuing notice requirement by advising the claimant of the situation and providing an estimate as to when the determination can be made.

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(d) No insurer shall persist in seeking information not reasonably required for or material to the resolution of a claim dispute.

(e) No insurer shall delay or deny settlement of a first party claim on the basis that responsibility for payment should be assumed by others, except as may otherwise be provided by policy provisions, statutes or regulations, including those pertaining to coordination of benefits.

(f) Except where a claim has been settled by payment, every insurer shall provide written notice of any statute of limitation or other time period requirement upon which the insurer may rely to deny a timely claim. Such notice shall be given to the claimant not less than sixty (60) days prior to the expiration date; except, if notice of claim is first received by the insurer within that sixty days, then notice of the expiration date must be given to the claimant immediately…. This subsection shall not apply to a claimant represented by counsel on the claim matter.

(g) No insurer shall attempt to settle a claim by making a settlement offer that is unreasonably low. The Commissioner shall consider any admissible evidence offered regarding the following factors in determining whether or not a settlement offer is unreasonably low:

(1) the extent to which the insurer considered evidence submitted by the claimant to support the value of the claim;

(2) the extent to which the insurer considered evidence made known to it or reasonably available;

(3) the extent to which the insurer considered the advice of its claims adjuster as to the amount of damages;

(4) the extent to which the insurer considered the advice of its counsel that there was a substantial likelihood of recovery in excess of policy limits;

(5) the procedures used by the insurer in determining the dollar amount of property damage;

(6) the extent to which the insurer considered the probable liability of the insured and the likely jury verdict or other final determination of the matter;

(7) any other credible evidence presented to the Commissioner that demonstrates that the final amount offered in settlement of the claim by the insurer is below the amount that a reasonable person with knowledge of the facts and circumstances would have offered in settlement of the claim.

(h) Upon acceptance of the claim and, when necessary, upon receipt of a properly executed release, every insurer … shall immediately, but in no event more than thirty (30) calendar days later, tender payment of the amount of the claim which has been determined and is not disputed by the insurer. In claims where multiple coverage is involved, payments which are not in dispute and where the payee is known shall be tendered immediately, but in no event in more than thirty (30) calendar days, if payment would terminate the insurer’s known liability under that individual coverage, unless impairment of the insured’s interests would result. This subsection shall not apply where the policy provides for a waiting period after acceptance of claim and before payment of benefits….

(i) No insurer shall inform a claimant that his or her rights may be impaired if a form or release is not completed within a specified time period unless the information is given for the purpose of notifying the claimant of any applicable statute of limitations or policy provision or the time limitation within which claims are required to be brought against state or local entities.

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(l) No insurer shall deny a claim based upon information obtained in a telephone conversation or personal interview with any source unless the telephone conversation or personal interview is documented in the claim file pursuant to the provisions of Section 2695.3.

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(n) Every insurer requesting a medical examination for the purpose of determining liability under a policy provision to pay medical benefits shall do so only when the insurer has a good faith belief that such an examination is necessary to enable the insurer to determine the reasonableness and/or necessity of any medical treatment.

(o) No insurer shall require that a claimant withdraw, rescind or refrain from submitting any complaint to the California Department of Insurance regarding the handling of a claim or any other matter complained of as a condition precedent to the settlement of any claim.

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