“Who The Heck Are You People, Anyway??”: A Note To Insureds

If you landed on this post because your insurer informed you that we have been appointed as your legal counsel, rest assured that you are not the first person to have questions about our role.

Maybe you were in a car accident and someone has sued you, or maybe you had an oil spill at your home or business and now your insurance company is looking to recover money paid out to you from some other party. There are numerous situations that might trigger our involvement, and they all stem from your insurance contract.

If indeed you are reading this because we’re defending a claim against you or pursuing a claim on behalf of “you” (for the money that the insurance company already paid out), you’re in what’s known as a “first-party”* relationship with the insurance company.

In a first-party relationship, both the insurer and insured have a duty of good faith toward each other. The insurer has agreed to pay for the lawyers and for any part of the claim that’s covered, under the policy limits. We’re sure you will be happy to hear that all of our very hard-earned legal fees will be paid by your insurer.

In exchange, you agreed to co-operate fully with the insurer (and us) and let the insurer call the shots as far as the legal action goes. This includes the ability of the insurer to decide to settle a matter, or to take it to trial.

You will have to provide us with all information, materials and documents (electronic or otherwise) that pertain to the case. Also, don’t be too surprised if you have to testify in person at a discovery examination, or “discovery” for short. If you watch American television, this is what they call a “deposition” in the USA. At the discovery, the lawyer(s) for the other parties will ask you questions, under oath, while an audio recording of the proceedings take place. If you are a named party to the legal action, you will generally be entitled to watch while the other witnesses testify (i.e., when we get to ask them questions).

Similarly, you may be required to testify at trial. Civil actions (which are lawsuits like yours–ones that do not involve criminal law) may take years to get to trial, especially if there are multiple parties, or a lot of evidence, or a lot of contentious issues. Many, if not most, civil actions settle before trial, but it is not a certainty.

We realize that this little blog post does not deal with every single question you might have and we didn’t really intend for it to do that. There will be specifics in your case that we will have to discuss in private and in depth.

We just want you to know that we do this all the time, that we are always happy to answer your questions, and that we appreciate your time and co-operation.

Relax, we’ve got your back.

*The other term you will hear is “third-party”, or “third-party relationship”. Third parties are anyone who isn’t part of the contract between you and your insurance company. (You and the insurer are the first and second parties).