By: Jim Snyder
When a new case first comes in, certain pieces of information facilitate our initial investigation. Of course, when a lawsuit is the first notice of loss, everyone is starting the defense with little to no information to pass along. However, in most instances, the client has received some essential information before the claim becomes a lawsuit and finds its way to us.
Immediate access to these three things helps us attack the case:
1) Accurate contact information for the named insured and the tortfeasor, if different. This would include at least a phone number and a physical address. Most files arrive with the name and address of the named insured, but being able to pick up the phone, call the tortfeasor and explain the process and our respective roles in it is invaluable. If the tortfeasor is not the named insured, we need the contact information for both. We speak with the actual tortfeasor first, but it is always good to have the contact for the named insured in case the tortfeasor is less than responsive.
2) Plaintiff’s demand letter, if available. The entire demand package will be useful eventually, but seeing Plaintiff’s narrative explanation of how this incident allegedly occurred and the nature, duration and extent of the claimed injuries allows us to quickly survey the case and preview what the Plaintiff’s theme is or may become. We do not form any final opinions from the Plaintiff’s demand letter, but this early snapshot of what Plaintiff’s counsel thinks is important is always enlightening.
3) The Police Report/Incident Reports. This is the first recorded accounting of the event that leads to the lawsuit. You can learn a lot from the police officer’s narrative, the description of speed, injuries, distractions, vehicle damage, citations, etc. Incident reports likewise provide valuable information about the initial injuries, statements about the event and key witnesses. The Police Report/Incident Reports will assist in the initial telephone conversation with the tortfeasor.
As a general rule, the more information the better, but on day one, having these three pieces of information when a new suit arrives, allows us to hit the ground running, and assists in early case evaluations, overall case efficiency and intelligent communication with the carrier about case strategy.
Jim Snyder, Director. Having tried more than two dozen jury trials to verdict, Jim’s passion is the courtroom. In addition to defending automobile claims, Jim also defends premises owners against slip/trip and fall claims. Jim’s prior experience includes the representation of chemical manufacturers against toxic tort and product liability claims. When not preparing a case for trial, Jim also drafts coverage opinions for insurers.