Quantity versus quality of ethical representation should be a consideration for all policyholders when selecting attorneys, restoration contractors, or public adjusters following a catastrophic loss. Unfortunately, it appears that many policyholders are accepting many people asking to provide assistance who are in the quantity game of helping people versus providing quality representation. “Scaling up” for more profit seems to be the mantra and many business owners are in the mindset of promising policyholders relief rather than providing the quality they deserve.
For example, I received a mass solicitation from Morgan and Morgan̵7;s advertising law firm soliciting other law firms to represent Hurricane Ian clients it received through mass advertising. Another example is a law firm in Texas that advertised its way to Louisiana and now has tens of thousands of clients with a handful of lawyers working on those claims. A new article in Claims Journal, McClenny Moseley sanctioned by 3rd Louisiana Circuit Court for double filing, seem to indicate that the law firm is mired in controversy over its ethics appeal and subsequent treatment of these thousands of Louisiana clients.
My book, Pay up!: Prevent a disaster with your own insurance company, not only advises on the types of public adjusters and restoration contractors a policyholder should hire, but also discusses the type of attorney a policyholder should make sure to retain:
Don’t always trust advertisements for legal services. TV commercials and online ads make it very easy for anyone to market themselves as specialists in many fields. They will wear one hat in one ad as an expert and another in the next. There are many general litigators who market themselves as property insurance attorneys (and a variety of other things) even though they work in many areas of law.
As with hiring an agent or a public adjuster, look for an attorney with the right qualifications and credentials. They should be in good standing with the state bar association. They must have good references. The best lawyers are leaders in their field and respected by their peers. Their passion for their area of law will show in their participation in professional organizations. The best lawyers publish articles and educate others in their area of law.
Finally, consider the lawyer as a person. The lawyer-client relationship is just that – a relationship. The best insurance claims attorneys are true policyholder advocates. This will show in the way they talk to you. Are they listening? Are they respectful? Do they communicate well with you on an individual level? This is someone you can work with for years. They will back your entire insurance team. They should be someone you trust to represent you.
All the technology in the world will not replace the human component of time spent with the policyholder learning the facts about the property that was damaged and the facts of the case. This perception of time with the policyholder is as important to property insurance adjusters as it is to property insurance attorneys. I shake my head when I learn that a disaster manager only spent an hour with a policyholder who suffered a total loss.
How would you like your own claim to be traded for more business? Some law firms and public adjusters unethically agree to barter their clients’ cases, so the attorney sends cases to public adjusters for assessment in exchange for the public adjuster sending the attorneys needed for litigation. All lawyers know this is unethical treatment of their clients. All lawyers know this is unethical solicitation that can lead to disbarment. Nevertheless, the practice continues. Some public adjusters who suggested I do this seemed surprised when I told them lawyers can’t do that, and it might even be criminal. Their response is that other lawyers do this practice.
Why would any policyholder want to deal with and be represented by unethical people? Policyholders should verify and seek assurances about how they will be treated by professionals offering assistance before signing any contracts. They should always do background and reference checks before letting others work for them on an insurance loss.
We might be closer to balancing the budget if we all lived closer to the commandments and the golden rule.