Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Passing the Torch

In an article I wrote a couple of years ago ("Dealing with Insurance Company Claims Representatives"), I urged plaintiffs’ lawyers in personal injury cases to communicate early and often with the claims rep assigned by the defendant’s insurance company. I suggested they take a leaf from Willie Sutton’s book and "persuade, cajole, and negotiate with insurance companies 'because that’s where the money is.'"

There are other reasons why it’s a good idea to open lines of communication with the company as soon as the case walks in your door. One that is often overlooked is that, by doing so, an alert attorney is more likely to learn useful information as to how the company views his or her case. Company claims reps have varying levels of authority based on their experience, training and time with the organization. Typically, the newer claims people are assigned the cases regarded as routine; the people further up the ladder handle more serious cases, and have authority commensurate with how the exposure is viewed.

If you have been working a case for a couple of months, diligently sending medical bills, records and other documents to your opposite number at the insurance company, and learn that the matter has been reassigned to a more experienced claims rep, that is not an occasion for alarm, but a sign that you have their attention! Don’t sulk because you think you have to start all over again and educate a new person. Believe me, these people are usually quick studies who likely know a lot about your case already. When you learn that such a reassignment has been made, jump on it quickly and establish contact with the new person. Offer to answer any questions he or she may have. Such cooperation is likely to pay dividends when the time comes for serious negotiations.

No comments: