Loss Prevention Tip #8
TIPS TO HELP YOU AVOID AN INSURANCE CLAIM
From a claims prevention point of view you get more for your risk management efforts by focusing on improving client communications and by getting things done on time. Below are a few tips for avoiding an insurance claim.
- Begin with a written retainer agreement. The retainer document should clearly identify who the client is, what the terms of your engagement are, what you are retained to do and the agreed payment arrangements.
- Control your client’s expectations at all times. Clearly and accurately communicate in writing to your client the available courses of action and possible outcomes, all implications of any decisions, how long things will take, and the expected fees and disbursements involved.
- Document, Document, Document. You might document as much as you can in some contemporaneous manner. Letters are fine, but e-mails, detailed time entries, and marginal notes on documents can be equally effective. In particular, you want to record advice or instructions that involve significant issues or outcomes, and major client instructions or decisions. Memorialized communications help confirm what was said or done for the client should you ever need to look back to explain why or what work was done, to justify an account, or to defend yourself in an insurance claim. Always keep in mind that claims can arise long after the work is completed.
- Set your deadlines well in advance. Set realistic deadlines for completing tasks and delivering things to clients. Don’t leave things to the very last minute, as unexpected events beyond your control can prevent things from happening as required. Giving yourself an extra week or two by setting your deadline before the real deadline can be a lifesaver.
- Don’t do any of the things that most annoy clients. This includes all the things that would annoy you, too—failing to return calls or e-mails, long periods of inactivity, and surprising a client with bad news or a large account.
- Don’t handle a matter with which you are uncomfortable. If you are unsure about handling a matter for any reason—you’re unfamiliar with the area of law, a potential conflict exists, it’s a matter for a relative or friend, or a demanding or difficult client—get appropriate help by availing of the Mentoring Program or refer it to another lawyer.
- Send interim and final reporting letters. The letters should confirm what work was done, and the successes obtained for the client.
- Think before suing for fees. This almost guarantees a counterclaim alleging negligence.
- Document, Document, Document. Read tip number 3 again. It is the best way to avoid a claim.