Insurance defense cases: common issues to keep on your radar screen
There are many ways insurance companies and those they insurance can come into conflict with a claimant. Perhaps the insurer questions whether the claimant truly suffered harm in the manner in which he or she says, or believes the claimant is inflating the extent of the damages incurred.
In one type of conflict, there may be very little disagreement about the facts: in an insurance coverage dispute, the primary concern is interpretation of the policy. The parties must delve into the language of the policy and determine whether or not the event that occurred was or was not covered.
Whatever the reason for a conflict that puts you in need of insurance defense, there are a few common pitfalls that you should avoid or you may expose your company to further risk.
Discovery, duty to cooperate and expert witnesses
In an insurance defense case, there are many ways mistakes can be made. Avoiding some of the most common can help insurance companies and those they insure come out of the process in the black.
Discovery is an important process in most civil legal claims. Discovery occurs in the early stage of litigation and involves each side compelling the production of certain key information from the other. But what is discoverable, and what is not? Moreover, what should be pursued in discovery? Parties in a coverage dispute often either over utilize discovery or believe they will be able to compel the production of information that is not discoverable.
The bounds of what a party can compel in discovery depend on the context of the case. But even if something is discoverable, that does not mean the opposing party should always ask for it. Onerous and overly burdensome discovery requests not only do nothing to advance a case, they raise legal fees and increase tensions between opposing parties, making it difficult to reach a settlement.
Another common issue is the duty to cooperate. Insured individuals and entities are typically required to cooperate with a claims investigation under the stipulations of the policy agreement. But, claimants who are trying to file a fraudulent claim or one that falls outside the bounds of the policy have obvious incentives to be disagreeable with investigators. Insurance companies and those they insure need to be stalwart in taking advantage of the duty to cooperate, and in utilizing the appropriate attorney to compel cooperation through the courts when necessary.
Finally, there are expert witnesses to consider. In some cases, an expert witness is important, even critical. But in others, an expert witness can be an unnecessary expense, or even a liability. For example, in coverage disputes that are primarily about policy interpretation, one or both sides commonly call in an expert witness to testify as to the proper interpretation of policy terms. Expert witnesses are meant to testify as to information that is outside the knowledge of the general public, and courts favor giving common meaning to the words of an insurance policy.
An experienced insurance defense lawyer can help you avoid pitfalls
In some ways, avoiding these and other pitfalls in an insurance defense case is a matter of personal responsibility. But it is also often related to choosing the right help. If you are in need of insurance defense, contact an experienced attorney today. Insurance defense is a complex area of the law, and an attorney with extensive practice experience can best help you achieve your goals.