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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Winter 2013

Insurance Defense Jennifer W. (Jennie) Pickett the ten CoMManDMents oF PraCtiCinG insUranCe DeFense laW I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “it’s so easy, I can do it in my sleep.” Th at may apply to some things, but not to the practice of insurance defense law. Although not an exhaustive list, below are my top ten rules or commandments for the civil litigation attorney. 1. reMeMber Who is #1 When retained by an insurance company to represent an insured, it may seem like you have two clients; however, the insured’s interests always come fi rst. I recently settled a case for a whole lot more money than I thought the case was worth but had to do it to protect my client’s interests. If everything went right for the plaintiff before a jury, there could have been an excess verdict. In order to protect my #1 client, I had to make the decision to settle within policy limits. Also keep in mind that although you typically report to an insurance company about what is going on in the case, don’t forget to keep the insured in the loop as well. Th at will hopefully ensure a cooperative defendant throughout the pendency of the lawsuit and will also give your #1 client peace of mind that you are taking care of him/her. Remember, we do this every day; they do not. 2. reMeMber yoUr reserVation oF riGhts resPonsibilities - Th e attorney represents only the insured and that insured is the attorney’s sole client; - Th e attorney owes a duty of full and ongoing disclosure to the insured as to all of the following: a. Any potential confl icts of interest between the insurer and the insured must be fully disclosed and resolved in favor of the insured. b. All information relevant to the insured’s defense, including a realistic and periodic assessment of the insured’s chances of winning or losing the suit must be communicated to the insured. c. All off ers of settlement must be disclosed to the insured as they are presented. A good practice is to copy the insured on all letters, reports, Th ere is a heightened duty on the part of an insurance defense attorney when a Reservation of Rights letter has been issued. More specifi cally, the attorney must abide by the following: Continued on page 22. 20 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Winter 2013
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