“That’s why I have a job,” says attorney Denise Hsu Sze with a warm and engaging smile as we sit down to talk at a legal conference in Las Vegas. She’s a long-time lawyer with a national firm that is focused entirely on helping people deal with bad faith insurance companies.
“At the Merlin Law Group we are essentially the policyholder’s advocate,” she says.“If there’s an insurance policy, and the policyholder isn’t getting what they should get, well, that’s where we come in.”
Recently, a California family had just completed a multimillion-dollar renovation on their home. Just days before they were going to move in, an instant hot water heater malfunctioned. The house was completely flooded with water heated to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. The house looked like it was on fire, but it was steam, not smoke, that was escaping from the house.
The damage was enormous. It was like the house was boiled lobster.
The property had $1.4 million in insurance attached to it but the insurer was offering to pay only $200,000.
Obviously, that was not enough for Hsu Sze’s clients.
Given that the insurance company had declined to pay the full amount, there was clearly a case to be made that the company was acting in “bad faith.”
“If an insurance company does not adjust in good faith, and has not followed general claims practice guides for insurance, and we can show what they have done wrong and what the consequences are, then we can take them to court,” says Hsu Sze.
“That then gives us an opportunity to claim damages above and beyond the policy limits,” she explains.
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“I think there are insurance companies out there and adjusters out there that strive to do the right thing,” says Hsu Sze. “There are times when I have turned away cases when I have looked at the adjusting and said you know what - they did the right thing.
“However, they are in the business of making money, and sometimes they will try not to pay out when they should have,” she says.
“The majority of the time, when a policyholder is upset and they come to me looking for help, it is because something has gone horribly wrong,” says Hsu Sze. “That happens a lot, and as I said, that’s why I have a job.”