The fast-rising cost of Truck insurance is being driven by higher claim settlements and jury verdicts, the result of relentlessness and cunning of the aggressive plaintiff bar. Added to the mix are the Private Equity firms financing attorney represented bodily injury claims and it is now imperative that new tactics in claims are needed. Hoping the results get better without altering our approach and defense is akin to the definition of insanity where we do things the same yet expect different results.
The iconic Fram Oil filter commercial from the early ’70s put it well; “You can pay me now or pay me later.”
The same can be said about the Trucking insurance claims. Pay now, as in early, or pay later whereby later means to pay a lot more. Expanding this line of thinking we can say that we either get busy now (immediately) or we are at the mercy of ridiculous allegations propounded by Plaintiff Counsel. The choice comes down to investing more in ALAE dollars upfront to aggressively obtain hard facts versus making assumptions and waiting to see if a claim arises (Example: minor scratch on a car and the truck driver reports no injury).
To drive home the point of early accident reporting we recommend to fleets that any accident involving an occupied vehicle, regardless of apparent fault, be reported JUST PRIOR to the accident occurring. A humorous attempt to get the attention of all those involved in the accident reporting process that you cannot be early enough. The stakes are too high to allow delays and miscommunication.
We advocate immediate (24×7; days, nights, weekends) digital recorded statements from all occupants of the other vehicle(s) along with social media and background searches to determine just who we are dealing with. Any red flag warrants the LAE activity and minor investment. Once the Attorney is involved much of the valuable information that gives us a read on the Claimants will be gone. No statement. No social media. To wait for a call from a Claimant AFTER they have been coached is never the best approach. In minor collisions, as opposed to hoping no injuries we now must anticipate an injury and respond according. As a matter of fact, we should think ahead that any occupant involved in a low-speed collision will claim neck, shoulder, and back injuries.
Relatively minimal dollars early on are needed to challenge low speed/sideswipe accidents with tools such as a Force Analysis that scientifically confirms whether the forces were sufficient to cause injury. This is the type of information that when presented to the Attorney (with animation) soon after their involvement will serve to put a lid on the build-up of damages. The “anticipation approach” is not foolproof but the run-away case where surgery is performed results in the immediate increase in the reserves. The defense of the case becomes a time consuming and costly fight between the experts.
While Trucking claims departments face multiple challenges including inexperienced and overloaded adjusters, the plaintiff bar continues to grow more emboldened by nuclear verdicts and “Reptile Theory” arguments that attempt to make the facts more like “fake news”. Further, private equity firms are seizing on this trend and funding the settlements of attorney represented claimants in advance – allowing more and more plaintiff attorneys to completely avoid settlement discussions and “go dark” as to any injury or treatment information until the 11th hour – leaving the defense to scramble.
There is hope, but it does not come without consistent effort and the willingness to spend wisely but aggressively early in the claims handling. The good news is that the dollars invested in the LAE functions noted above are relatively low. It also requires an approach of being aggressive and obtain the facts (such as with obtaining non-injury recorded statements) on EVERY accident involving occupied vehicles – regardless of fault. We don’t have a crystal ball to determine which case will careen out of control therefore, the approach must be swift, consistent, and thorough. This approach will reduce the likelihood of your having the claim that “got away”.
So, when it comes to the Plaintiff Attorney crisis, you can pay vendors now, or, pay Plaintiff Attorneys later.