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Upgrade Your Defense Counsel to Contain Workers Compensation Costs!
Jan/Feb Risk Management Tip of the Month
By Kevin Quinley CPCU, ARM AIC, AIM, ARe

Dyanclaim for Claims Websites

One way to tame workers compensation costs is to upgrade the caliber of legal counsel that you use on contested cases. Tremendous costs are involved here, both in terms of legal fees incurred and the indemnity payouts from unsuccessful claim defenses. Wise choices here stem “leakage” in paying groundless workers compensation claims.

Here are five key selection criteria for upgrading your defense counsel:

Experience in workers compensation defense: An attorney who superbly litigates car crashes or slip-and-fall defense is not necessarily an adept workers compensation lawyer. Seek someone whose caseload is predominantly, if not exclusively workers compensation defense. What percentage of their caseload is workers compensation defense? Ask!

Success ratio: There is no second place in workers compensation litigation. You want to win! What is the attorney's win/loss ratio? Does she keep track? How does the attorney define "win"? In workers compensation, a "win" can be anything from a defeated compensation claim to get 40% permanent partial disability instead of permanent total.

References in workers compensation: Get names, addresses and phone numbers of three current clients in the workers compensation area. CHECK THOSE OUT. What are the lawyer's strengths and weaknesses? Why do you use this particular firm? Ask the lawyer for names of former clients. Phone them and ask why they no longer use that firm or attorney. Otherwise, a firm will hand-pick three clients who are only going to give you rave -- not balanced -- reviews.

Multi-jurisdictional experience: For risk or claim managers handling files for more than one state, an attorney's flexibility is key. Compensation defense skill is not necessarily or easily transferred from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. You may find a superb defense attorney in California, but that may do little good when you need a specialist defending claims under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. Does the firm have offices in the states where you are likely to have claims? Are compensation specialists staffed in those other branches?

Proximity to venue: How close is the lawyer to the courthouse or commission office holding compensation hearings? If the attorney must travel long distances, the client may pay dearly in costs. Attorneys close to the courthouse can also often more easily keep tabs on the pulse of the compensation system: what arguments succeed and which fail, the likes, dislikes, personalities and idiosyncrasies of the Hearing commissioners along with courthouse scuttlebutt that may be useful in workers compensation claim defense.

Get involved in counsel selection. Don’t wait until you have a contested claim. Use this checklist to professionalize your due diligence. Better defense counsel can pay dividends in lower transaction costs and more “wins” on contested cases!


Kevin Quinley is a claims consultant, trainer, speaker and expert witness. He is the author of ten books on various aspects of claims management. You can reach Kevin at kquinley@cox.net, by phoning (703) 239-1694 or via his website, www.kevinquinley.com © 2009

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