The Top Ten Tips for Working with Insurance Companies
guest authors: Leonard D. Zaccagnino, Esq. and Gail Galfo, Paralegal
Tip 1: Get all the Facts.
To accomplish this in our practice, we have the client meet with both myself and my paralegal, if possible. We have developed a comprehensive intake sheet that sets forth all the information we need from background information, name, address, telephone numbers and other details and specific facts relevant to the client. We list the date of the incident, what happened, any witness information, investigations performed, injuries and damages sustained, and the like. The more information we have at the outset, the better we will be able to support our client's position and obtain a favorable result for our client.
In addition, by using the same intake sheet over and over, we are sure to get all the information necessary. It also creates a duplicatable intake process that is used throughout the office with all attorneys and staff. We can amend the intake sheet as we continue to learn with each case we handle. I like to call this CNI
Constant, Never-ending, Improvement
Tip 2: Begin with the end in mind.
Make your demand to the insurance carrier as soon as possible to disclose their policy limits. If the client has the insurance policy, get the full policy and familiarize yourself with its provisions, especially the amount of coverage.
Tip 3: Do a thorough investigation as soon as possible.
You will use all this information as the foundation for all discussions you have with the insurance company representative.
Remember, knowledge that is applied is power!
Tip 4: Determine all available sources of insurance and the amount of coverage.
Tip 5: Be nice.
Nice doesn't mean weak. Nice means communicating with kindness and respect. Speak the truth, and don't hold back on facts - good or bad.
You want to connect with the insurance company's representative. "Connect" is different that "communicating." Connect means to speak from your heart, tell the truth, and develop a mutual respect for one another's position, including differences.
Do not be disrespectful, nasty, rude, condescending or sarcastic.
Remember: One gets more flies with honey than vinegar!
In our practice, we have actually gotten to the point where many insurance company representatives have told us that they enjoy working with our office. When people like you, they will try to help you.
Tip 6: Provide the insurance company representative with all of the information that you have, whether favorable to your position or not.
Embrace the weaknesses of your claim, and make them your strength. Be transparent in all you do; speak the truth for the truth will set you free.
Explain that you will continue to provide the insurance company with all pertinent information as you obtain it, including updated medical records, diagnostic imaging studies and the like.
Tip 7: Stay in constant communication with your client so that you understand what they are going through.
You must step into the shoes of your client in order to understand the full impact of their claims. If possible and pertinent, make arrangements to meet with your clients at their home to see how the damages they have sustained have affected their lives.
Tip 8: Listen.
Tip 9: Tell the claims representative what you want to resolve your claim for, and why.
Put all settlement demands and offers in writing so that you have a record of the same, and so that there will be no misunderstanding as you move forward.
Make sure you keep your client in the loop as negotiations proceed. Make sure your client is in agreement with your negotiation strategy and goals.
Tip 10: Develop the reputation of being fair, but well able to present your case to a jury.
Develop a reputation of integrity. Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way. Integrity stems from the Latin word "integer," which means whole and complete. Integrity requires an inner sense of wholeness and consistency of character. When you deal with others with integrity, people should be able to visibly see it through your actions, words, decisions, methods and outcomes.
I guarantee that if you act toward the insurance company with integrity, you will be able to resolve your client's claim and, in the process, set the stage for a working relationship that will be mutually beneficial to all concerned.
Leonard D. Zaccagnino is the senior partner in Shaw & Shaw, P.C. He is a member of the New York State Trial Attorneys Association and Association of Trial Attorneys of America. Mr. Zaccagnino's practice focuses in civil litigation, specializing in personal injury litigation representing people that have been seriously injured. Mr. Zaccagnino has spoken at various training seminars for other attorneys in the area of personal injury law.
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