If you’re a claims representative who is involved in an insurance coverage litigation, be prepared to be deposed. This month’s edition of Claims Magazine offers five tips for achieving the results you need.
1. Is it relevant?
After receiving a notice of deposition you’ll need to discuss the relevancy of your testimony with counsel. If you cannot produce relevant information to the issues decided by the court—especially where the dispute involves the meaning of the policy language—counsel may object to the taking of your deposition altogether. If there’s a question about whether the insurer properly investigated the claim to determine if the allegations fell within the policy terms, your deposition may be relevant.
Depositions are most likely deemed relevant in “bad faith” litigation where the focus is on claims-management. For example, if the claims representative didn’t handle the claim properly or made decisions favoring the interests of the insurer, then the actions of the adjuster are deemed relevant.
2. Be thoroughly prepared
If the deposition goes forward, it’s crucial that you really know the file. You should understand its history and why you took the steps you did so you can handle any question pertaining to it. Preparing an outline or timeline of events is advised, as well as being able to identify and explain inconsistencies/changes in strategies or decisions. Make sure to review all emails, pleadings, contracts, policies, and other documents.
Prepare yourself for questions about the actions or decisions of other persons involved in your file by reviewing notes from your supervisor. Identify key facts and themes that are relevant to the coverage decisions by working with defense counsel. Finally, accept that that the file may have been imperfectly handled and be ready to explain and address errors or problems.
3. Know the claims manual or guidelines
Find out if your company has a claims manual or guidelines in written form and familiarize yourself with them. Identify the training required for your position and any factors regarding how to make discretionary decisions, and know whether any written statements contradict your usual practice. You may want to consult with counsel and identify cases in which your company litigated the same question in other jurisdictions and familiarize yourself with the documents produced or the positions takes in those cases.
4. Be aware of key insurance regulations
Consult with counsel about relevant state insurance regulations. If you don’t know about company procedures and protocols outside of your department, don’t be afraid to admit so. In some cases it is deemed acceptable that you have no personal knowledge about that aspect of the company’s business. For example, you may be asked about bad faith complaints filed against the company in the past, but according to regulation compliance that would likely be the responsibility of another department.
5. Prepare for a video deposition
Ask your attorney beforehand if the deposition will be videotaped. Opposing counsel may insist on a videotaped deposition because it may “throw you off” if you’re not expecting it. If you’re going to be taped, prepare yourself as you would for a trial appearance in front of a jury.
Bottom line: If you know your file thoroughly, dress professionally, make eye contact, remain calm, and provide forthright answers, you will be able to make the case. Call Matsen Insurance today if you need help preparing your deposition.