Even the most experienced attorneys representing corporate policyholders can make missteps that endanger their clients' chances of winning insurance coverage litigation, like making assumptions about policy language based on past cases. Here, experts discuss some of the mistakes that can trip up policyholder lawyers.
Not Knowing a Client's Business
Some policyholder attorneys focus too narrowly on a single insurance coverage dispute facing a client, instead of taking the time to learn how the dispute will affect the client's business on the whole, experts say.
"In an insurance dispute, the coverage issue may be only part of the equation; the client's business needs are also important," said Bill Passannante, a shareholder in Anderson Kill's New York office. "That may mean taking the most aggressive stance possible, or taking the most accommodating stance possible, depending on the circumstances."
Overemphasizing Case Law
While finding on-point case law that addresses a specific coverage issue is an important part of what policyholder attorneys do, it's not the answer to a client's problem in and of itself, experts say. Lawyers must take an approach that results in the best resolution for the client, which may mean taking steps to avoid litigation, according to attorneys.
"Attorneys often look at reported cases as the be-all and end-all," Passannante said. "Quite frankly, they are tombstones: problems that got solved in litigation." In addition, only a small number of insurance cases go before state supreme courts, and many coverage issues don't have definitive answers from those courts, Passannante noted.