Insurance defense counsel must always keep the lines of communication open with their carriers and be diligent in responding to client inquires. Client reporting is a mandatory task every defense attorney must perform. The various stages of litigation call for different reporting periods. Also, new material information or events could call for extra client reporting.
Some carriers make it easy for insurance defense counsel to know when to report
One way for insurance defense counsel to know when to report is to simply ask the claims adjuster. Some carriers have a reporting protocol already in place with monthly, quarterly or bi-annual reporting requirements. Others, however, expect a report after every case management conference. The easiest way to know when a defense attorney should be reporting is to ask the claims adjuster.
Reporting new assignments
When the defense attorney receives a new assignment, the file must be reviewed as soon as practical under the circumstances. Some assignments could have been made before or after service of process while others might have been assigned after service and after the time period for filing an appearance. Some carriers appreciate a quick outlook of a new assignment which includes a timeline of investigation, pleadings and written discovery. Forwarding the file-stamped pleadings to the carrier may or may not be warranted.
Reporting can help claims adjusters set reserves
When the case enters written discovery, reporting could be warranted based on the alleged injury and damages. When the file is assigned to counsel, the claims adjuster may have a grasp of the alleged injury or even have some medical records. However, if the claims adjuster has no idea as to the type or extent of the injury, it could affect the ability of the carrier to set reserves.
Reporting on the injury and damages in this instance is very helpful to the claims adjuster. They will not be surprised by a large settlement demand if they are informed of the injury as soon as insurance defense counsel reviews the medical.
Insurance defense attorneys are the eyes and ears of claims adjusters
Personal injury litigation has a life of its own and things can change from one day to the next. A claims adjuster might set reserves on the basis of a plaintiff alleging soft tissue injuries throughout the initial phases of the litigation. When the plaintiff is deposed, testimony is elicited about seeing a surgeon and the possibility of surgery. This is when a claims adjuster needs to be informed about the change in the alleged injuries and the potential surgery.
A case going from soft tissue to surgery completely changes the settlement dynamics and adjusters should be informed as soon as possible. No adjuster likes to see a policy demand letter without notice that a case could have been designated a policy case, so it is incumbent upon the litigation defense attorney to understand when changes in a case warrant a report to the client.
Keeping the client informed about witnesses
Witness availability is also an important development of which adjusters should be made aware through a client report. Witnesses tend to move or disappear without notice to the attorneys, and witness location and cooperation drastically affects defense strategy. Defense counsel should be diligent about letting a claims adjuster know immediately when he or she learns that a defense witness moves out of the country without notice.
Post-deposition client reporting allows the claims adjuster to evaluate a case
Even if the carrier does not ask for a report, litigation defense counsel would be wise to submit one following conclusion of each deposition. Some of the areas counsel might touch upon in a post-deposition client report could include:
- Whether a party has an excellent or a poor memory
- Whether the witness has trouble with the English language
- Whether the witness presents as being credible
Any of these observations by the attorney could directly impact case strategy and settlement value, so reporting them to the claims adjuster is important.
Learn more about client reporting
Client reporting is one of the most important, if not the most important skill every litigation defense attorney should master. Defense attorneys must be diligent with claim resolution reporting and in returning status reports to the claims adjuster. For more information about client reporting, contact Alexander Sweis at McKenna Storer at (312) 558-3994.