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Limits on the duty to defend

When you obtain an insurance policy with a company in Washington, you enter into a contract with your insurer. Your insurer then has a responsibility to fulfill three duties, one of which is the duty to defend. In other words, if someone else brings a lawsuit against you for damages covered by your insurance policy, your insurer has a responsibility to cover the costs of your legal expenses. However, the duty to defend is not all-encompassing. We at LePley Law Firm believe that it is important for you to understand the limits on your insurer's duty to defend in order to ascertain whether your insurer has broken faith with you.

Insurance policies include exclusions as a matter of course. A good example is a homeowner's policy, which may cover the effects of an accident resulting from a maintenance issue such as a burst pipe, but not the cost to repair the pipe as its upkeep should have been part of your responsibility as a homeowner. 

According to FindLaw, there is a legal precedent establishing that insurers need not pay a client's legal fees beyond the liability limit if the policy includes specific language stating that upon reaching the amount of full liability, the insurer's duty to defend terminates. However, in the absence of such language, the insurer still has a duty to cover the client's ongoing defense costs even after paying its policy limits. More information regarding the duty of defense that your insurer owes you is available on our website. 

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