Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tips for Status Reports by Attorneys to Claims Professionals

I received permission from Marc Lanzkowsky of the blog The Claims SPOT (www.the claimsspot.com) to republish the below posts from that blog here on Tort Talk as a guest post providing worthwhile tips for reporting updates on cases to claims professionals.

5 Elements That Reports From Outside Counsel Should Have

By James Pattillo – March 15, 2011

Outside looking in:
Give what they need and you will make them happy!

Our last SPOT on Legal article looked at the five things counsel should leave out of a report. I’m sure most of you thought of more than five. This article looks at five things that must be included. It’s amazing how many times these basic items are overlooked. Providing the essential information in the correct format will help make claims professional’s jobs easier and will help to move the case in the appropriate direction.

1. An Overview – Although you don’t want to repeat yourself, a little background is helpful. Give an enough of an overview to give the new information some context. This is especially important if the reports are every 60 days or more.

2. Enough Detail – I know one of the warnings in the previous post was to not include too much detail. Well that is a double-edged sword. Bottom line: there shouldn’t be any unanswered questions after reading the report. It always needs to address the effect on damages and liability whether or not there has been a change on those estimates. Again, the lesson here

3. Direct Advice/Recommendations – The report needs to have a point. What needs to be done in light of this new information? If nothing, then state it. If additional questions have come up that need to be addressed with more discovery or depositions, then state it. If now is the time the try to resolve the case in light of the new information, then recommend it.

4. Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan – Every report should state what the expected activity is before the next report is sent. Have a plan moving forward and work that plan. Any deviations from the expected activity in previous report should be explained.

5. The Bottom Line is the Bottom Line – Always have a solid liability and damage estimate. Liability estimates are most easily expressed in a percentage chance of a certain verdict. A damage estimate is always harder to come up with but a range is usually appropriate (e.g. “any verdict in favor of the plaintiff will most likely be between $350,000 and $400,000). It’s ok to change your estimate, but only if it is based on case developments that couldn’t be anticipated. A looming trial date is never a good reason to change a liability or damage estimate.

5 Things Claims Handlers DON’T NEED In A Report From Counsel

By James Pattillo – March 10, 2011

Outside Looking In:
Claims professionals are pretty busy. Sometimes less is more!

Time is of the essence. Isn’t it always? Claims handlers have the near impossible task of assimilating a large volume of information to make an accurate assessment of a claim. And they have to do it on a daily basis for a pending file list much larger than most of the defense counsel they work with.

Of course every bit of information in litigation is important. You’ll never hear a lawyer say “let’s just leave that out.” But at some point, the case has to boiled down into a report or summary.
This article looks at the top five things defense counsel include in reports that are not essential.

To be fair, my next post will examine the top five things that are essential to those reports. (Of course, I’m sticking my neck out here on some level. As soon as something is labeled as “non-essential”, it will become the key piece of information upon which a claim turns. Good judgment is always the rule at the end of the day).

1. Repeating Your Last Report – No one wants to read the same thing they read 30, 60 or 90 days ago. Each report should have 75% new information. The remaining 25% should be background from the case as a whole that provides context to the new information.

2. Duplicative information in the Same Report – No need to repeat the same information multiple times in a report. If you don’t need to repeat it from a previous report, don’t repeat it several times in the same report. A brief overview or summary in the beginning is o.k. but generally try not repeat yourself. Also, you should not repeat yourself.

3. Information About You – Claims handlers don’t need to know your trial history or bullet points from a curriculum vitae. However, if you have experience with a particular judge or plaintiff’s counsel, that is valuable information.

4. Billing Tasks – An explanation of your billing or why a particular task took a certain amount of time is outside the scope of a litigation report. Follow the billing guidelines and get approval where required. But leave it out of the report.

5. Too Much Detail – This is difficult because every claim handler wants something a little different. Most often, defense counsel are criticized for giving too much (e.g. the 40 page summary of the 80 page deposition transcript doesn’t do much good). Everyone has a different workload depending on the type and complexity of claims. The key here is to communicate about the level of detail that is wanted.

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