Our law firm holds a lawyer retreat focusing on lessons learned from trials. If a policyholder wants to settle their claims for their full and fair value, it is very important to hire lawyers who are willing to take cases to trial and who will prepare them in a way that insurance companies, their lawyers and adjusters respect.
For me, it’s humbling, educational and fun to be with so many great lawyers doing property insurance cases around the clock and analyzing what we did well and can improve. The picture above is from the 1920s themed party—so the retreat had a lot of fun outside of the classroom as well.
One of the teachers was trial lawyer James B. Lees. This was the second time he taught our firm about skills and case preparation for trial. One point Lees made was that we should continue to seek opinions on our case from focus groups and others outside our law firm. Sometimes we tend to get caught up in the details of the facts of the case and miss how others may perceive those facts and evidence.
Lees also mentioned Rick Friedman as a trial lawyer worthy of studying how to prepare an insurance case for trial. I mentioned Rick in a recent post: Merlin Law Group Wins Bad Faith Jury Verdict. Friedman points out that insurance companies have rules for good faith adjustment duties that are not defined or even mentioned in the insurance contract. The only way the insurance product works is if the property insurance adjusters comply with these obligations during claims settlement. Some insurance companies take these obligations seriously and spend a lot of time educating their adjusters on these good faith obligations, as I noted in Should insurance companies have claims manuals that explain procedures and standards for adjustment?:
The best insurance companies train their adjusters all the time. Corrective concepts are taught, repeated and reinforced. I know that my rhetoric and that of my colleagues can be very sharp on a case-by-case basis or when damages decisions are determined by economic considerations that are detrimental to a policyholder rather than the merits of a particular injury. As a result, many routine and very good claims rules are often never mentioned by anyone on the policyholder̵7;s side. This is because it is easy to simply stereotype an adversary’s insurer rather than understanding, appreciating and acknowledging meritorious and well-intentioned efforts to train and prepare adjusters to provide outstanding service to clients after a loss. Many of my policyholder colleagues do not realize that this effort exists in many claims departments because they do not take the time to study claims management and alignment.
Practicing the best adjustment processes is important for insurance companies trying to do right by their customers. Training on the best practices for presenting, litigating, and taking a case to trial is important for property insurance attorneys trying to do right for their clients. It is an investment that is not seen by the customers but which really shows in the results.
I’m lucky to be part of a team that helps keep me looking good, and they deserve as much credit for my success as I do for the hard work we all put in on the training field.
– Lionel Messi