Handling An Insurance Claim Webcast
I recently participated in a State Bar of Texas webcast with policyholder attorney William Chriss called An Introduction to Handling an Insurance Claim. I hope that the thirty or so folks who tuned in learned something. I know that I did. It was a fun conversation with an attorney I respect about the way we handle our cases. Preparing for the webcast was also enlightening. Bill shared his 15 tips for handling an insurance case from the policyholder perspective and I provided a defense-oriented counter-point. There were certainly areas of disagreement. For example, Bill advised young practitioners to, “look for ways to raise issues that will get evidence before the jury about what the case really involves, particularly insurance misbehavior” even when the case is a pure breach of contract case. My response was that practitioners representing insurance carriers should resist attempts to convince the court that extraneous issues, like other claims, are relevant to the question of whether there is coverage under the policy, whether covered benefits were paid when due and whether there was compliance by all parties with the requirements of the contract. However, I cautioned that trial court judges are often not swayed by arguments that your insurance carrier client will be prejudiced by the introduction of such evidence. They can be swayed, however, when you demonstrate how the introduction of this extraneous and marginally relevant (at best) evidence increases the length and complexity of the trial. It is certainly important for carriers to remember that juries (and judges) are often looking for evidence that supports their suspicions regarding how insurance companies work. Bill and I wholeheartedly agreed about some fundamental practice tips. We both encouraged practitioners to be collegial. Bill put it nicely: “It is Nice to be Important; but it is Important to Be Nice . . . Professionalism is not an option. Karma is a reality.” I reminded practitioners that we are required by the Texas Disciplinary Rules not to take positions that unreasonably increase the costs or other burdens of the case or that unreasonably delay resolution of the matter, even if our client asks us to. At Hanna & Plaut, we are committed to aggressively defending the interests of our clients but we will not sacrifice professionalism to do so.