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Disaster-racked Americans are finding out the insurance deck is stacked

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Posted On 07.11.11 by in Insurance

The following news article excerpt featuring co-founding partner Alan Horwitz appears in The Baltimore Examiner. The article is reproduced by permission below. To see how it appears in the Examiner, go to: www.examiner.com/courts-in-baltimore/disaster-racked-americans-are-finding-out-the-insurance-deck-is-stacked

With the unprecedented number of natural disasters racking the country causing widespread injury and property loss this year, millions of Americans have been left facing huge hurdles in dealing with their insurance companies.

“The biggest hurdle an insured faces in obtaining fair treatment by an insurer in an insurance dispute is the insured’s comparative lack of experience in insurance coverage litigation and the insured’s limited financial resources. Insurers – and their legal counsel – know this, and often use the insured’s lack of money and experience against them,” says Alan Horwitz, co-founding partner of Baltimore’s Ingerman & Horwitz law firm. www..com

Why are policyholders at a disadvantage in insurance disputes? Consider this: In the foreword to “From ‘Good Hands’ to Boxing Gloves: How Allstate Changed Casualty Insurance in America,” Eugene R. Anderson quotes a 1988 Memorandum in Support of Motion for Partial Summary Judgment written by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company:

“[the policy holder] is likely not as familiar with litigation and claims evaluation and disposition as is the insurance company

… [T]he insurer is a professional defender of law suits . . . Unlike the insured, an [insurance company] is not a novice as to matters involving litigation.” National Union Ins. Co. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. 696 F. Supp. 1099 (E.D. La. 1988) (No. 86-2000)

Insurers constantly find themselves mired in bad faith lawsuits filed by their policyholders. A fact that makes them unparalleled experts in defending themselves, and causes them to keep expert corporate counsel and vast amounts of money on hand at all times. In fact, according to the American Insurance Association, the insurance industry spends at least $1 billion per year in litigation against policyholders.

That’s a lot of money. Certainly enough to “ride out” most of the lawsuits or claims filed against them. With this reality in mind, the legal strategy used by most insurance lawyers is a simple one – string the case along for as long as possible. If they can draw it out long enough, they think, the policyholders eventually will run out of money, lose faith, and go away.

This is exactly Eugene R. Anderson’s point when he quotes (along with his co-authors Jordan S. Stanzier and Lorelie S. Masters) Jeffery W. Stempel on page 11-17 of Insurance Coverage Litigation:

“Unlike most commercial actors fighting for supremacy in a world where possession is nine-tenths of the law, insurers always have the nine-tenths advantage: They hold the money. Consequently, insurers always get to ‘play the float’ in any dispute. Even where the judicial system acts rapidly and efficiently to provide compensation to wronged policyholders, the carrier may find it made money by delaying payment of the claim.” (Jeffery W. Stempel, Interpretation of Insurance Contracts: Law and Strategy for Insurers and Policyholders Section 19.3, at 466-67 (1994).)

A policyholder’s only chance for fair treatment, then, is to level the playing field as much as possible by engaging the services of his/her own expert counsel. Without an ally who possesses as much legal expertise as the insurer’s corporate counsel, the policyholder will simply find him or her-self outmatched by the resources and experience of the opposing team. When the deck is stacked, your only chance to win is if you can line up a better hand.

 

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