Navigating insurance claims involving difficult attorneys can pose challenges for claims adjusters and departments alike. The inherent adversarial nature of the relationship between the claims department and an attorney representing an injured claimant is well understood by adjusters. While acknowledging this adversarial dynamic, it is essential for adjusters to prioritize professionalism and ethical conduct. However, difficulties may arise when confronted with challenging behaviors exhibited by claimant attorneys.
Engaging with attorneys can be daunting for adjusters, particularly when they employ aggressive tactics or launch sharp attacks. Many attorneys relentlessly pursue favorable settlements for their clients, leading to stressful interactions.
In this article, we aim to explore five effective tactics that adjusters can employ to alleviate anxiety when dealing with difficult attorneys. These strategies will help you navigate defense and negotiation processes successfully, even in the face of the most challenging plaintiff attorneys.
Tactic 1 – Thorough Preparation
Imagine your claim file as having the structure of a house. It all begins with a good foundation. This foundation will collect evidence and supporting documentation to justify your decisions about the claim. This does not necessarily mean all available evidence will favor you. Sometimes it is quite the contrary. However, knowing the bad information and the goodwill put you in a position to make the right call and speak candidly with opposing counsel.
This foundation is more than just the collection of evidence, however. You also must deeply understand the facts of the case and be extremely familiar with everybody involved. This will include their personalities and motivations. You must be aware that the plaintiff’s counsel will exploit any character flaws on the part of your policyholder. Conversely, the claimant may also have character flaws that could tip the balance in favor of the defense. These flaws should also be brought to light so that open and honest discussions can be had about the case.
A talented and experienced lawyer might intimidate a younger claims adjuster. However, a true legal professional will respect an adjuster who can demonstrate a deep knowledge of the case and speak directly about information that can be proven true.
Tactic 2 – Maintain Professionalism
One tactic that unscrupulous claimant attorneys often employ is to attempt to break down the composure of an adjuster. If they try to make you angry, recognize this as a tactic. Please do not fall for it. As they get more aggressive, you should become more professional. Do not lose your cool! Instead, avoid personal attacks, name-calling, or other unprofessional behavior.
Professionalism is especially important when interactions between you and the claimant’s legal professional are conducted in the presence of others. Most often, this will be people such as a mediator, your claims supervisor, or even the policyholder. Unprofessional behavior will be magnified among the people who observe it, and you will quickly deteriorate your reputation as a professional.
Employ stark professionalism and a deep knowledge of your case as outlined above. If you do this, any claimant’s attorney will recognize that they have a formidable job ahead of them if they do not have a solid negligence case.
Tactic 3 – Assertive Communication
Communication is it two-way street. This means that your outgoing communications must be professional and stern. Yet, it would be best to remain open-minded to avoid confirmation bias. Leave room to accurately process information provided by the claimant’s lawyer or anyone else involved in the case. Suppose the claimant’s attorney has credible information that your insured negligently conducted themselves and that behavior was the approximate cause of an injury to the claimant. In that case, it is important that you have the self-awareness to understand that the claim should be settled. Do not be afraid to lay your cards on the table and assert a defense when you have a solid case. Communicate professionally that your assessment of liability is based on facts you have from a thorough investigation, and if you are confident in the facts you have found, say so with authority.
Tactic 4 – Engage A Skilled Defense Attorney
Some cases can be extremely complex from a legal standpoint. When a case has the hallmarks of a dispute that involves unclear legal ramifications, it is time to consider bringing defense counsel to the table sooner than later.
If you wait until a summons and complaint are filed to bring defense counsel in on the case that you know is a hornet’s nest, it may be too late to have investigated certain avenues for the defense.
Bringing defense counsel early on when circumstances warrant is not only good for your defense, but it also is good for the education of your claims staff. They can assist in crafting liability defenses and negotiation strategies. Decisions like this need to be considered heavily, as bringing on defense counsel can quickly ramp up your loss adjustment expenses on a file; however, not getting them on early enough costs you significantly if the claim is not investigated to its full potential.
Tactic 5 – Document Everything
Claims adjusters are well-versed in obtaining and reviewing such documentation. This is especially so when documenting claims through evidentiary documents such as lease agreements, contracts, or medical records. However, some of the most important documentation required for a file is documenting the correspondence between you and the claimant’s attorney.
An adjuster would do well to assume that the claimant’s attorney maintains copies of all documentation and phone conversations you have with them, so why wouldn’t you also put as much or more effort into this documentation yourself?
Remember, your job is to have a deep knowledge of the claim from its beginning until now. If you cannot recall what was said during a phone conversation or if you cannot recall the discussions that you had by email with the claimant’s lawyer, you will project that you are not taking the claim as seriously as the plan of a legal professional might be. This could be detrimental to your defense and your settlement negotiation strategies.
Are You Ready?
Be sure to understand that at the outset of a claim involving a claimant’s attorney, careful planning and a systematic approach to managing your claim file should be used. Demonstrate to a difficult claimants lawyer that you have thoroughly prepared, that you are a consummate professional, that you communicate your position assertively, that you will not hesitate to bring in defense counsel when necessary, and that you maintain meticulous file documentation proving that you are abundantly familiar with the minutia of the case.
If you employ these tactics, you will increase your chances of success with even the most difficult claimants’ attorneys.
To learn more about the tactics used by legal professionals against claims adjusters, check out our valuable white paper on “Defense Secrets: Insights on Injury Attorneys.”
If your claims department requires assistance in the investigation, handling, and management of liability claims, check out our website at http://www.auten.claims or call us at 585-454-8094. Our team will gladly assist with any aspects of your liability cases.