Discovery of claims management practices was a topic of discussion on Sunday morning at the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) annual convention. They have their convention in Las Vegas every Labor Day weekend, and it is an excellent opportunity to network and learn from some outstanding legal colleagues. I attended with our Los Angeles based attorney, Ken Kan.

Kathryn M. Trepinski gave a very valuable seminar on how the insurance workplace has changed over the past three decades and how it has impacted the adjustment of claims. Trepinski worked as "an insider" for insurance companies in a past life and now does consulting work for policyholder attorneys and practices on the side of policyholders. Her website provides a little about her background:

Ms. Trepinski has extensive legal and corporate experience in all aspects of litigation including high-exposure multi-state class action, coverage, claims, bad faith, personal injury, financial and regulatory matters. She practiced ten years at an international law firm, followed by ten years in-house at the nation’s third largest personal lines automobile and homeowners insurance carrier. She testified as the company’s expert in deposition and at trial, and acted as the liaison to its insurance regulators across the country.

Her paper noted the following:

Systematic change began to occur in the 1990s. Movement away from handling claims based on their individual merits, and toward a systematic practice of processing claims.

  • Uniformity through computer systems and company-wide business practices: Colossus; Exactimate; Marshall-Swift-Boeck. Programs produced a settlement number.

  • The 2008 financial crisis led to a second wave of practices. Refinements made to claims technology; fewer staff.

  • First effective discovery tip: maintain an awareness of these changes.

  • Second effective discovery tip: depose adjuster or pmk re computer screens.

“Tour” of Insurance Company

  • Operations Department

    • Correspondence software.
    • Robosigning and e-signatures.
    • Third Effective Discovery Tip: notice the deposition of the robosigner/electronic signatory.
  • Compliance Department

    • Evolution of this recent management position and department.
    • Duties and reporting lines.
    • Fourth Effective Discovery Tip: discovery re your “problem” issue.

She opined that the recent suicide of Zurich’s CFO resulted, in part, from the pressure felt to increase profits at all costs, even if ethics are sacrificed. The CFO was a friend of hers.

She encouraged policyholder attorneys to bring actions where institutional claims practices are abusing the rights of policyholders.

Her wish is my command.

Here is a link to the suicide and a link to an article about the Zurich CEO resigning because of the suicide.