As is well known, civil litigation in the U.S. can be expensive, time-consuming and burdensome. Despite these obvious drawbacks, countless insurance disputes wind up in litigation, imposing costs and burdens on policyholders, claimants, and insurers. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms – such as arbitration, mediation, settlement conferences, and appraisal – allow the parties to insurance disputes to avoid the expense and burdens of trying to address a dispute in court. A new book published by the American Bar Association entitled “Resolving Insurance Claims Disputes Before Trial” (here) seeks to provide a practical guide to the ADR mechanisms. As discussed below, this book provides valuable guidance for attorneys, claims adjusters, and others involved in the insurance claim process.
The book is divided into multiple chapters, each written by an attorney or claims professional with specific practical experience with the topic the chapter addresses. The overall book was edited by Timothy H. Penn, a Second Vice President, Claims Services, for the Travelers Companies, and Judith F. Goodman, an attorney now Of Counsel with the Herzfeld & Rubin law firm. Various chapters provide an introduction to and overview of the various ADR mechanisms. Other chapters provide practical suggestions for navigating the ADR process, as well as a review of the ethical issues that can arise. Later chapters address the issues involved in using ADR processes for various specific kinds of insurance claims, such as automobile liability claims, commercial general liability claim, and products liability personal injury claims. As discussed below, there also is a separate chapter on using ADR in professional liability claims.
The book is particularly useful in providing insight into various types of ADR procedures that can arise and that the typical practitioner is not likely to encounter regularly. For example, my good friend Perry Granof, of Granof International, contributed a chapter entitled “Introduction to Alternative Dispute Resolution in International Business Transactions.” The chapter provides an overview of the various international conventions that have been put into place over the years to provide a framework for international arbitrations. The chapter also provides an overview of the various international arbitration institutions, as well as the processes in place at these institutions. The chapter helpfully addresses a number of practical issues, such as drafting international arbitration provisions and commencing international arbitration proceedings. The chapter also includes an overview of the international mediation proceedings. The chapter concludes by saying that “up-front planning and communication, before the dispute arises, will go a long way toward controlling costs and will likely lead to a more satisfactory dispute resolution process.”
Jeff Kinchaven, an independent mediator with a national practice that includes mediating insurance coverage disputes, contributed a chapter entitled “Selected Topics in Mediating Insurance Cases.” This chapter provides a plethora of practical advice on how to manage a third-party liability insurance claim mediation. The chapter provides useful suggestions on how to choose a mediator; how to approach and to communicate with the mediator; how to use the mediator and the mediation process to “close the deal”; how best to document deals reached through mediation; and what to do when the mediation proves unsuccessful. The chapter is written a straightforward way that many practitioners will find helpful.
Timothy J. Rowan, a Managing Director at Marsh USA, and Louis R. Russo, a partner at the Goldberg Segalla law firm, contributed a chapter entitled “Professional Liability Claims.” The authors point out that use of ADR may be particularly appealing to some parties in the context of professional liability claims, because ADR mechanisms such as arbitration and mediation “offer a degree of privacy unavailable in the trial setting.” The expertise that arbitrators and mediators may have also offers an attractive alternative to juries and judges who may lack the necessary insurance expertise. The authors also note that ADR may be unappealing to some policyholders and claimants, as the use of ADR “neutralizes” one of the more useful negotiating levers that policyholders may have; that is, burdens and the uncertainty of the outcome of litigated disputes may provide useful leverage in some situation. The chapter provides useful practical overview in steps the parties can take to try to make the most out of mediation and arbitration.
Overall, the volume provides a useful practical guide on ADR mechanisms for attorneys and claims professionals involved in resolving insurance disputes. Because a number of the chapters focus on very specific types of insurance claims disputes (such as, for example, life insurance claims or health and disability benefits claims disputes), not all of the chapters will be equally useful for all readers and practitioners. But because each chapter was contributed by an experience professional with experience in the ADR processes discussed in the chapter, the book is full of very useful advices and guidance. This book will be a useful resource for any practitioner involved in the claims resolution process.