Tuesday, August 15th, 2017
by Brian Tenzer, Senior Partner
If you haven’t noticed (and I am sure you all have), it is rainy season here in Florida. It is also Hurricane season. And even if Florida escapes getting hit by a hurricane this year, we most likely will experience a storm almost every day of the week. With that comes an influx of roof claims. One of the keys in evaluating and defending a roof claim is your engineer who will inspect the roof and alleged damages and provide his/her opinion as to the cause of the roof leak and the extent of the damages. Oftentimes, these opinions along with the engineer’s written report is is a major consideration in the decision to pay or deny a claim. If the case makes it to trial your success will largely depend upon your engineer, jis/her opinions and how he/she presents themselves to a jury. Sometimes, the engineer’s opinions are flawed based upon insufficient information, or the engineer does not present as a good witness on behalf of the insurance company. Unfortunately, this can make or break your case. However, there are many things an insurer can do to make sure that the engineer is qualified and capable. 1. DO NOT RELY ON YOUR VENDOR Insurers have many excellent vendors to choose from who offer multi-disciplinary professionals. However, some vendors do not adequately vett their people. Some vendors focus more on the qualifications of an engineer and do not look at whether that person can write an effective report based upon their findings and opinions. Vendors may also not asses their engineers as to how they may fare under cross examination in a deposition or trial. Ultimately it is the insurer who must make sure that the potential expert that they are retaining is qualified for the job. 2. DIG DEEP Vetting a potential expert requires experience and an intimate understanding of the claims and litigation process and, therefore, it is best to have one of your most competent and trusted legal staff participate in the process. Most obvious in this process is a thorough background check which includes verifying all information in the potential expert’s CV including academic history, publications and experience. You should also review any publications that the potential expert was involved in to make sure that these writings are in line with your general claims position. In addition, you should review prior deposition and trial testimony of the potential expert. 3. LET HISTORY DECIDE A potential expert who does not retain a list of cases wherein they provided testimony should not be retained as that is one of the basic avenues of discovery permitted by an adverse party. Any expert worth retaining should be aware of this requirement. Similarly, a potential expert should easily be able to convey the percentage of work they perform as an expert and the percentage of time they perform expert work for a plaintiffs or defendants. Finally, the expert should be able to say with complete confidence that they are willing to be deposed and attend trial, and what their rate will be. Of course, there are many additional methods and strategies for making sure that you have the most qualified potential expert. Granted, the ideal vetting process takes time and money. However, think about the time and money that is lost on claims and cases that were denied due to an expert’s lack of skills and knowledge. Thus, it may be penny wise to avoid the vetting process in the early stages of a claim and litigation, but it is very much pound foolish.
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Hurricane, Property Insurance, Storm, Tropical Storm, Vendor