Thursday, February 23, 2012

To Defend or Settle

One of the interesting sessions I attended at the PARMA (Public Agency Risk Managers Association) conference in Monterey CA last week was “To Defend or to Settle, That is the Question”.  It was presented by Terry Cassidy (shareholder at the Porter Scott firm), Jack Blyskal and Doug Taylor of CSAC, excess insurance authority JPA.  While their presentation was focused primarily on Liability claims, I believe the following points are pertinent to Work Comp as well:
  • Attorney fees (for both plaintiff and defense) can quickly exceed the true value of the claim
  • An assessment should be performed early whether settlement (indemnity and/or medical) is the goal
  • Expectations are often not set properly due to unrealistic initial demands by the plaintiff and/or the defense perspective that an early offer is a sign of weakness
  • Chicken or Egg: Does defense wait for an offer that can provide enough information for rebuttal or proactively make an offer based on the merits of the case?  There was a lot of dialogue on this subject, both on the panel and from the audience, and no definitive plan as the right answer is always unique to each individual situation
  • Mediation is a good option if it is a facilitated negotiation and unbiased / objective (sometimes finding one without a history of preference is difficult), but a direct route should be primary and is preferable
  • Due diligence on the appropriateness of scope and duration for medical treatment allows better questions to be asked (and a stronger case to be made)
Bottom line is that open and transparent communication is important throughout the process.  I'm not an attorney, but the dialogue I observed during the session seemed to affirm these as helpful insights.  The presentation materials can be found on the PARMA website and allow you to make your own decision.

In this together – Mark

On Twitter @PRIUM1


  1. Settling early and often doesn't necessarily make you appear to be a weak entity, know which cases to try is key.

  2. Thanks for that clarification. Assessment is important, as well as the wisdom (and experience) to know how and when to proceed. Hopefully this is helpful advice to everyone trying to best manage their expenses associated with claims.