Things to Consider When a New Claim is Filed (Part 1)

Richard Spiers, CPCU, ARM, ARe, AIC
Consultant, Spiers Consulting, LLC
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There have been many claims filed that do not, at first glance, appear to have a large exposure. In the public sector, sometimes the insured’s reputation has been magnified by the media after a detrimental has taken place. When a case is reported that does not appear to have a large exposure, the plaintiff attorney can do research on a town, a school district or a college to see if there is any negative reputation that can be used. Today, deep research is conducted for any related claims, especially in police related prior claims.  It is always important to have a good defense attorney, but there have been a few times that the defense attorney and the claim adjusters do not think a claim is going to become a larger exposure, since some prior events or some other small aspects do not appear to raise the value of the case. If the plaintiff attorney is not willing to discuss a case settlement and has a bigger desire to take the case to court, there are several reasons he or she may want a jury to listen to the case.

A court jurisdiction is another thing to study. Sometimes an attorney will want to file a suit in the federal court for several reasons. After a case is finished in federal court, the plaintiff attorney can file a demand for a large amount of his fees. Even if the final judgement is not real high, they can ask for as much as a million dollars of fees. On the other hand, the plaintiff attorney may prefer to file in the area’s county court. Some county jurisdictions around the country have been known to provide a very large verdict amount, the people selected to be on the jury can be known to have been in juries that have always provided a larger amount demanded by the plaintiff attorney. There are other local jurisdictions that have been more willing to respond better to the defense case. This jurisdiction may find the insured guilty, but they may not always vote for as large as the demand the plaintiff attorney seeks. This is one of the aspects that need to be thought about as the case begins to move forward.  If the plaintiff attorney is not willing to consider discussing a settlement amount, just be aware you may be going to court for these reasons.

We are now moving to a list of some more 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.

The majority of highly publicized incidents these days normally involve police departments, but it is not only police related events that need to be carefully reviewed. Allegations of sexual abuse, improper employment 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 must be ready to respond to the media when media seeks more information from the public entity and schools.  If the investigation is not commenced fast enough, the media will post a negative response if an entity is not ready to respond to their questions.

Your Reputation

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 increase 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.

*The views and opinions expressed in the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) blogs are those of each respective author. The views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRIMA.*

By: Richard Spiers, CPCU, ARM, ARe, AIC
Consultant, Spiers Consulting, LLC

Richard has been in the insurance industry since 1980 and was a claim executive in the reinsurance and excess marketplace since 1985. He was with Genesis Management and Insurance Services for over 20 twenty years. He is currently doing claim consulting work. Richard has extensive experience handling the wide array of claims faced by public entities, K-12 school districts and the higher education sector. Based in Chicago, he has also worked for Transamerica Insurance Group, Northbrook Excess and Surplus Insurance, CNA and Allstate Reinsurance. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, a member of the Society of CPCU, and holds associate designations in risk management, claims, and reinsurance. Richard has been developing and presenting insurance industry-related training sessions to a variety of client and industry groups for over 25 years.

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