I want to start this article by saying that some of the best business attorney Tulsa I know are insurance defense lawyers. Some lawyers who trained me to be the lawyer I am are insurance defense lawyers. Diane, Seth, and Jennifer all taught me so much when I was an insurance defense lawyer. I hold them in the absolute highest regard as does most business attorney Tulsa I know.
With that being said, the job of an insurance defense lawyer is a bit tricky. You are hired by an insurance company to defend their insured pursuant to a policy of insurance the insured purchased. You have legal and ethical obligations to both the insurance company that hired you and is paying you. But you also have legal and ethical obligations to the insured as the insured is the client you were hired to protect.
The situation gets kind of tricky. For example, what do you do when a client tells you something that impacts the value of the case but asks you to keep the information confidential? You owe the client a duty of confidentiality, yet you owe the insurance company a duty of transparency when it comes to information that could impact the value of a case.
As you can no doubt believe, there is a buffet of legal ethics opinions on fact scenario after scenario involving the love triangle that is insurance defense.
I want to share with you a personal story on a commercial trucking case I once defended. The fact scenario involved a lady driving a small Cadillac sedan. She was traveling down a hill when she noticed a vehicle hauling a windmill blade was stopped in the middle of the road. Traveling behind her, and unknown to her at the time, was a large oil-and-gas vehicle that was used to work on oil rigs. The brakes were out of service and, according to the driver, he stood on the brakes and the vehicle did nothing. The large vehicle hit the Cadillac going about 65 miles per hour. She was no doubt injured considerably.
The real damaging information from this case came from disgruntled ex-employees who were fired from the company. They testified about horror story after horror story that could seriously expose our client to major punitive damages. They said things like they would send “scout trucks” down the road to make sure the highway patrol was not out and about. The scout would then signal back that the “coast was clear” so the trucks that were not supposed to be on the road in the first place due to out-of-service violations would then travel on the highway.
We, before I became a business attorney Tulsa, were hired by an insurance company to defend the oil and gas company that employed the driver who hit the Cadillac. Thankfully, not long after we were retained, we learned that the oil and gas company hired a private attorney. This helped everyone substantially. I remember my boss at the time telling me he liked it when personal business attorney Tulsa were involved. I later learned why.
Here are the three major benefits to hiring a personal attorney who looks out for your best interests in a litigation scenario.
The first and most obvious benefit is you have an business attorney Tulsa looking out for your best interest. I am not saying that insurance defense lawyers do not look out for a client’s best interest. Many insurance defense lawyers balance the responsibilities to both clients beautifully. It’s kind of amazing to watch! But sometimes, like described above, you get in a bit of a pickle and have to make a choice. When you have an attorney looking out for your business, you are the lone paying client so there is no choice to be made.
The second reason is it helps boost the credibility of the insurance defense lawyer. I remember time after time meeting with new clients as an insurance defense lawyer and the clients always treated me skeptically. I routinely heard remarks like, “Well, you’re not really MY business attorney Tulsa. You work for the insurance company.” They had a point as the insurance company was paying our bills. We were reporting directly to insurance adjusters, preparing quarterly reports on every file, and subject to routine audits by auditors employed by the insurance company. While the clients were copied on all correspondence and reports, clients were not involved with payment by the insurance company or audits. I loved it whenever the client we were hired to represent hired a personal attorney. Whenever we said something, the client usually believed it. If whatever we said was echoed by the personal attorney, then the client almost always believed it. While it might seem odd to have that many cooks in the kitchen, having an extra lawyer who could boost our credibility as insurance defense lawyers made our job infinitely easier.
The third and final reason why you always want to have personal counsel in a lawsuit is you truly have a strong voice. In the case described above, settlement negotiations got pretty intense as a looming trial date approached. Keep in mind we were going against some of the best personal injury lawyers in the state so we knew we had to be on our A game. The insurance company that hired us was being a bit tough as that is what insurance companies do when it comes to money. Eventually, the personal business attorney Tulsa sent what we attorneys call a “Hammer Letter.” A “Hammer Letter” is a letter sent by an attorney to an insurance company threatening a bad-faith lawsuit. For the record, every contract contains what is called an “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” This business attorney Tulsa covenant is a fancy way of saying that everyone will get along in the sandbox. For insurance companies, Oklahoma law says that this duty is heightened so that insurance companies, given their level of sophistication, owe an even higher duty to clients. Hammer Letters threaten to sue companies for failing to meet their heightened duty. Sending this letter usually gets everyone’s attention. In our case, it was one of the reasons the case settled the Saturday before trial.
If you are involved in a lawsuit but do not have a personal attorney, consider calling the RC Law Group. I as a business attorney Tulsa have both served as personal counsel and served as an insurance defense attorney. I as your business attorney Tulsa am comfortable filling the role of personal counsel to truly look out for the best interests of the business you are working so hard to build and maintain.