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Tools of the Trade: Servicing the Client

By David B. Collins

Individuals and business owners unaccustomed to litigation may be unfamiliar with legal terms used by an attorney in his or her reports to the insurance company. Over the next few issues, I will explain some of the terms one might see in a letter from the defense attorney to the insurance company. I am hoping that these articles will serve as “talking points” for claims adjusters with their insureds while also explaining basics to those unfamiliar with the litigation process. These articles will be captioned “Tools of the Trade” and I look forward to bringing them to you.

Typically, a lawsuit is filed and the Defendant is served with the Complaint. The Defendant then forwards the Complaint to his, her or its insurer. The insurer, then, forwards it to an attorney for handling. Under the “Tripartite Relationship,” the Defendant (not the insurance company) is the client. The attorney reports to a claims adjuster or claims attorney at the insurance company. The two consult on the plan for the defense and the defense attorney keeps the claims adjuster or claims attorney apprised of developments throughout the course of the litigation.

Wise practice dictates that the client be copied on the correspondence, to keep the client apprised of the plan for, and status of, the litigation. While some business organizations may have their own attorneys (in-house or outside counsel) or an employee dedicated to monitoring lawsuits (i.e. risk managers), individuals and smaller business organizations may not. Every client is entitled to understand the plan for the defense and to know what is going on with his, her or its case. Carbon copying the client on correspondence is the manner in which this is typically done.

Litigation can, and often does, cause stress. A major part of the defense attorney’s job is to shepherd the client through the process, keeping them informed and answering their questions. As such, if someone has a question or concern about the plan for, or status, of the case, he or she should contact the defense attorney handling the case. He or she will be happy to answer your questions and/or address your concerns.

Originally published in the Fall 2011 edition of Quinn Quarterly.