Saturday, November 22, 2008

“YES WE CAN!” may be new Plaintiff’s Bar Mantra Starting in January ….

For claim adjusters, the tort landscape is their battleground. It shapes and frames the rules of the game. Those rules can mean the difference between a boxcar reserve or a nuisance value number, between a defense verdict or a runaway award. A recent Business Insurance article (BI, 11/10/08, “Risk: Future of Several Issues Debated,” p. 25) cites three factors that may cause the Obama Administration to impact the tort landscape.

First Supreme Court appointments likely to be made within the next four years may influence areas of employment law.

Second, an Obama Administration may take a more circumspect view on Federal preemption. This arcane defense has huge financial implications for sectors including but not limited to pharmaceutical and medical devices. Preemption is the notion that, in some cases, Federal approval of a tightly regulated product renders that product immune from state tort claims saying that a product is defective. Billions of claim and defense dollars ride on this issue.

Third, Vice President-elect Joe Biden has been a consistent opponent of tort reform.

So, while the build-up for the January inauguration continues, claimants and members of the personal injury bar may ask, if only rhetorically, “Can we be more successful in pursuing claims starting in 2009?”

The likely answer is, “Yes we can!”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jay Leno Gets Comic Relief from Insurance Claims

Jay Leno’s opening monologue on November 17th included two insurance jokes.

One poked fun at NBC. Leno said that, if the raging Los Angeles wildfires got too close to the NBC studios, audience members should do nothing to quell the flames because, “NBC needs the insurance money!”

He also observed that, after an LA-area disaster response simulation on November 14th, scientists had now figured out a way to give citizens 30-seconds of notice prior to an earthquake. “Of course,” Leno quipped, “that won’t give you much time to do anything but it will give State Farm enough time to cancel your policy!”

Who knew that insurance claims provides so much comic relief?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Does Speed of Claim Processing Correlate with Customer Satisfaction?

At one point during the movie Top Gun, Tom Cruise’s character – Maverick – turns to his fighter pilot buddy Hondo and yells, “I feel the need for speed!”

Claim adjusters may merely climb into the cockpits of their company cars instead of an F-15, but many still feel the need for speed. They feel it from bosses, from corporate service standards, from policyholders, claimants and attorneys.

Does faster claim service correlate with heightened customer satisfaction? A question on a LinkedIn discussion group among P&C Claim Professionals got me thinking on this topic.

The type and texture of the claim may dictate greatly the correlation between speed of processing and customer service. For example, if it is a straightforward first-party property loss, speed and customer satisfaction may directly correlate.
The insurer that can handle that claim in 24 hours or so will likely get high marks from me in customer service and satisfaction.

If I am a commercial policyholder facing a complex third-party property claim with time element features and find that my adjuster, in the interests of speed, has settled a claim in three days I may be tempted to think I got screwed because the adjuster
(a) did little or no investigation and/or
(b) over-paid the claim to slam the file shut quickly.

The context of the claim may a factor in correlating speed vs. customer service; in some instances, those factors may be inversely related. It’s tempting to give a lawyerly “It depends” answer to the question. Depending on the type of claim, though, adjusters could say “Speed Thrills” while others could accurately say, “Speed Kills.”

Faster is better … except when it’s not.

Monday, November 3, 2008

If Dems Win, Adjusters Can See Silver Lining in Resurgent Tort Bar

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article (“Lawyers Aim to Roll Back Curbs on Lawsuits”) that addresses a theme the Claims Coach discussed a few weeks ago.

It examines the implications of a prospective Democratic victory at the polls tomorrow. Apparently tort lawyers are licking their chops and refueling their Gulfstreams at the prospect of an Obama Administration. Financial contributions from law firms weigh heavily toward the Democratic side. Curbs on lawsuits, tort reforms, caps on recovery for non-economic damages, mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer agreements are all at risk.

Tort reform has not been a hot campaign topic in the McCain vs. Obama race. No surprise there. Amidst the panoply of more oppressing issues – the tanking economy being foremost – it’s hard to make any case for tort reform being a big deal.

Adjusters and claim professionals may lament the prospect of their jobs being rendered more challenging if the tort climate evolves into a more pro-plaintiff atmosphere.

On the other hand, to the extent there are more claims and loss severity grows due to changes in the legal environment, perhaps those factors will drive a stronger need for employing good claims talent.

Here lies a possible silver lining: whatever provides full employment for the plaintiff’s bar may as well provide full employment for claim professionals!