Just because a plaintiff’s attorney represents an insured and/or claimant does not necessarily mean that he is an adversary to the insurance adjuster. In fact, the plaintiff’s attorney should be an asset to the adjuster...doing the basic job for the insurance adjuster in securing a liability investigation, securing all the special damages (medical bills, lost wages and property damage) and present a palatable and properly supported settlement demand package to the adjuster who needs then only to negotiate the settlement.
Additionally, the plaintiffs attorney can be an asset in handling very difficult claimants or insureds by talking reason to the client as to the real value of a claim or a property damage claim.
However, some attorneys cause insurance adjusters and their own clients problems due to poor responsiveness and failure to keep up with the status of the claim. A prompt response to a client’s or adjuster’s phone call is essential. A second common fault is the attorney’s failure to know the progress and status of his files or, if the attorney himself is up to date on a file, failing to apprise the client or adjuster. If the client or adjuster hears no news, they may assume that means no progress.
It is easy to spot a good plaintiff’s attorney, based on the following points:
• The attorney ignores the clock and spends quality time with the claims representative.
• A good plaintiff’s attorney will share information with a claims representative and, hopefully, make that claims representative’s job easier and life more rewarding. For example, a good plaintiff’s attorney may ask the claims representative if he or she has a copy of the police report, or some other relevant document and offer to send copies if needed. There is no need to play “hide the ball” with the adjuster. It will build trust and facilitate the process if the plaintiff’s attorney tries to assist and aid the claims rep in processing the plaintiff’s claim.
• The attorney should know something about and appreciate the claims game. The attorney will know, even if the claims representative does not, that if dealing with an automobile accident, that claim representative is going to need a copy of the police report, medical bills, medical report, and lost wages statement, all of which have to be documented and reduced to writing. The attorney will also know that when he sends copies of documentation to the claims adjuster, those copies must be organized, legible and readable, otherwise they are worthless and result only in additional time and expense for the claims representative to request additional copies.
• The plaintiff’s attorney will communicate to the claims adjuster his/her theory of liability (unless obvious), and full documentation of any allegations of monetary damages. The attorney may even go so far as to give a “ current” realistic evaluation of his client’s injury claim (valuation) and give a “ basis” for that attorney’s opinion. This is particularly likely if damages exceed available liability coverage. If there is clear liability and $100,000.00 or more in documented damages, the adjuster should be willing to pay out a minimum limits policy without waiting for the insured/claimant to finish months of medical treatment.
• The attorney will use innovative settlement techniques when necessary. For example, a video tape can illustrate an average day in the life of the plaintiff and help the claims adjuster better understand the case.
• The attorney is open to using alternative means of resolving disputes without the very costly and traditional approach of litigating and trying every case in front of a jury. Such examples of alternative dispute resolutions are the selection of professional mediators and arbitrators that are readily available in today’s market place.