In Oklahoma, insurance companies have an incentive to investigate and resolve insured claims in a timely manner. Part of this incentive is provided by a fee-shifting statute, 1 where the insured can recover legal fees and costs if they are the prevailing party at the trial. I recently wrote about a decision in the Supreme Court of Oklahoma on the recovery of fees and costs, Insured Oklahomans have a confirmed right to have their insurance companies pay their attorneys fees and costs for wrongfully denied claims .
There are additional incentives where insured persons can reclaim interest against insurance companies if an insured person is the prevailing party at the trial. 2 This compensates insured persons for the loss of use of money to which they are entitled.
The amount of recovery 3 According to this statute, an insured person prevailing at the trial may recover interest on the judgment at a rate of fifteen percent (1
To demonstrate the possible consequences of this interest charter, McCrary v. Country Mutual Insurance Company 5 considers a case pending in the Northern District of Oklahoma. In McCrary, the insured plaintiffs suffered damage to their home when a sewer line broke under the home. A jury awarded the plaintiffs $ 22,000 in actual damages and $ 25,000 in punitive damages. Following this judgment, the plaintiffs sought to recover interest on the judgment. In particular, they also sought recovery of attorneys' fees, which the court awarded. The court agreed that the appellants had the right to recover interest, and the court calculated interest based on the $ 22,000 awarded for actual damages. The starting date for the court's calculation of interest was the date on which the defendant insurance company denied the plaintiff's claim. A total of 1039 days elapsed between the date on which the claim was rejected and the date on which the jury announced its verdict; the insured appellants were thus entitled to recover interest during the 1039 days during which they were deprived of the use of the money which they were liable under the agreement. By applying the 15% annual interest rate, the court determined $ 9.04 was the daily interest amount to the insured plaintiffs, and $ 9,393.70 was the total interest amount to the judgment. At a price of $ 22,000, the appellants were able to recover an additional $ 9,393.70 in interest.
Recovery of interest before a judgment is not limited to cases where a jury announces a judgment. An insured plaintiff can also get interest back if the court makes a judgment that makes the insured the ruling party. 6 This can occur, for example, when the court makes a summary judgment in favor of the insured 7 or where the insured accepts an insurance company's offer to recognize the judgment. 8
As the McCrary case reflects, interest amounts on insured persons can be significant, especially where a judgment is significant. This is good news for insured persons whose insurers have benefits and is just one way in which the Oklahoma legislature has encouraged insurance companies to pay contractual amounts to their insured.
1 36 OS § 3629
2 36 O.S. § 3629 (B)
3 See Id.
5 McCrary mot Country Mut. Ins. Co. No. 4: 13-cv-00507 (ND Okla. 24 August 2016).
6 Yousuf v. Cohlmia 741 F.3d 31 (10th Circ. 2014).
7 Id. at 47 ("[a party’s] claims of prejudice interest are defeated not only because they were convicted in accordance with a summary judgment rather than a jury assessment.")
8 Banks v. Cimarron Ins. Co., Inc. 882 P.2d 580 (Okla. Civ. App. 1994).