Sellers of malpractice insurance, Mainstreet included, rarely get involved in dispensing advice throughout the claims process. Insurance companies have become increasingly adamant over the years that agents and brokers keep our distance from claims handling. They have good reasons; allegations of lawyerly negligence are complicated matters and insurers need a direct relationship with their policyholder. For consistency and clarity, they prefer advice comes directly from company professionals who handle such claims full-time.
That said, retail agents like Mainstreet ARE paying attention. We are advised by cc or bcc through the entire process when one of our accounts has a claim. Our position as a non-participant observer, taking notes, and preserving results on a file-by-file basis, gives us a special perspective on the process and where it sometimes breaks down. Here are some (hopefully salient) observations to keep in mind if you find you need to use your malpractice insurance.
First of all: lawyer claims are always ugly.
Having a claim made against you can elicit the same strong emotions usually associated with devastating loss: shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger, bargaining, depression, reflection, loneliness, action to resolve, acceptance and hope. Not always in that order.
Obviously, not all these emotions affect all lawyers, while some will hit harder than others. The fact is, the existence of single claim can have a devastating career impact and that’s bound to illicit some strong feelings. Some lawyers get mad and lash out, usually ineffectively, at those of us who sell professional insurance. Some allow the emotional repercussions, anger or self-doubt, to impact their other professional work. Yes, claims are ugly, but your reaction doesn’t need to be.
Keep in mind that not all claims have merit.
In fact, almost half of them are spurious and will eventually be successfully defended. If you are blindsided by a claim that you’re certain is nonsense, don’t let it throw you off balance any more than necessary. As agents, our job is to guide you toward taking the actions required by your insurance policy. You must advise the company directly and in the manner the policy prescribes, to ensure the best outcome.
Above all, try to stay cool.
By keeping control of your emotions, you have the opportunity to be an asset to your defense rather than a liability. And yes, you can be your own worst enemy; those strong emotions are a dangerous ingredient when mixed with your legal education and experience. This is a time to be the mature professional you’ve always aspired to be. Your patience will be tried and your tolerance tested. In many ways, your ability to maintain a helpful, professional demeanor could make you the perfect asset for a successful outcome.