The majority of highly publicized incidents these days, normally involve your police department, but it Is not only police related events that need to be carefully reviewed. Allegations of sexual abuse, employment improper management issues, insufficient property maintenance, and many other areas can generate a large claim. If you have several annual events that can generate crowds, make sure events are properly planned and set up securely. The file handlers need to gather as many strong facts as they can and be ready to respond to the media when media seeks more information from the public entity and schools. If the investigation is not started fast enough, the media will post a negative response if an entity is not ready to respond to their questions.
We are now moving to a list of some of the things that need to be considered before making your strongest decision regarding the exposure you may be facing. Some of this list may not appear to be important, at first, but they can possibly have a strong impact.
Newspapers and Internet Comments
After an incident occurs, it is always wise to search social media and read your on-line local newspapers that allow readers to add commentary at the end of the article. Those comments can help you understand what your community thinks about the incident.
Local and Federal Jurisdictions
It is good to review the history of your local jurisdiction and nearby Federal Courts. You can review how similar incidents ended up in your area. Some local County jurisdictions are considered very conservative with a history of good jury verdicts. Other County jurisdictions can be determined to be more liberal with cases ending up with large jury verdicts. If your jurisdiction is considered conservative, your case could end up in Federal Court. Remember that a Federal jury will include people from all jurisdictions surrounding your area. If you have more liberal jurisdictions around your venue, make sure you are aware that a Federal jury can be made up of more liberal members than what normally happens in your local jurisdiction.
Public entities and school districts can generate a lower reputation, if a number of incidents have occurred that have generated negative publicity from the media. A negative reputation can make the value of your case go higher than expected because a jury might award a higher verdict in an attempt to punish an entity or school district because of their reputation. A negative reputation can have an impact, even if the reputation was not built on a similar incident you are currently dealing with.
Plaintiff Attorney’s Reputation
Plaintiff attorneys’ positive reputations can grow higher based on the publicity generated regarding any earlier cases regarding a large settlement or verdict amount. In addition, many firms are now often seen on TV commercials expressing how important it is for an injured party to hire them. They also often make it sound like a carrier is against taking care of an injured person.
Communication with Elected Officials
If the media contacts you and, if you do not have information ready to share, do not be surprised if they reach out to your Mayor, City Council members or other elected officials. Elected officials are not hesitant to talk to the media and, if they have not been advised of anything by the claim handlers about a recent incident, they may offer an opinion that can be a problem. In several large cities, the mayor has generated very negative publicity regarding police related cases that have generated immediate media attention. It is important to keep your local government updated regarding a case.
There can be a longer list of things that should be evaluated, but this article is designed to help you understand the importance of making sure your claim staff is properly trained and see what things can generate a larger exposure, even if it feels insignificant at first.
If you do have an excess insurance policy, you should develop a good level of communication with their claim staff because they may have dealt with similar cases in many different states and can help you determine those extra areas that should be analyzed.
By: Richard Spiers, CPCU, ARM, ARe, AIC
Claim Consultant, Spiers Consulting, LLC
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