There are some classic and all-too-common villain tropes in the movies: the Scrooge-type miser, the megalomaniac and the greedy, faceless corporation. Add insurance companies to that list. Movies show them as heartless organizations denied their customers in the name of extra profit. Whether it's a cartoon like The Incredibles or the John Grisham novel-turned-movie The Rainmaker, there's a public perception that insurance companies are adversarial.
In a piece for Insurance Journal, Douglas Woods explores three common arguments plaintiffs are using in bad faith claims against insurance companies, all of which are rooted in the idea that insurance companies aren't looking out for their clients.
Woods names three strategies:
- Institutional attack: when a plaintiff will systematically go after the insurance company as a whole, instead of focusing on the details of the specific case
- Reptile theory: where a plaintiff will use insurance policy regulations, isolating them from context or circumstances
- Rules of the road: Similar to reptile theory, this attack takes an existing policy regulation and repurposes it as a simplistic, absolute statement
These arguments against insurance providers all play on the perception of the heartless business that's only interested in collecting premiums from its policyholders.
Customer service and transparency is the solution in any claim situation, Woods stresses. People respond to empathy. A timely response, clear communication and explaining the business purpose for information will satisfy most customers and create a less contentious dialogue as a claim proceeds.
Many of these villainous attributions are as old as film itself. They are deep rooted in our culture and form distrust before a claim begins. It's important to counter these negative expectations and to create policies that can't be manipulated to hold a different meaning out of context.