Scout the Opposition - What Claim Professionals Could Learn from College Football Coaches

October 24, 2018| Von Bill Paccione | P/C General Industry | English

Region: North America

Having lived most of my life in the Northeast before moving to Atlanta, I never really appreciated the excitement of college football. As Labor Day approaches each year, most people in the Northeast are “bummed” because summer is soon coming to an end. While on the other hand, folks in the Southeast are gearing up for the start of their favorite teams returning to the gridiron and thinking nothing could be better!

While the start of the college football season begins in the fall, coaches spend hours and hours of time throughout the year scouting their opponents. Those who fail to do a good job at this are likely unsuccessful.

This brings me to “what claim professionals can learn from college football coaches”. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to participate in the management of a number of large Commercial Auto claims including trucking. I am struck by the fact that too often claim professionals, and defense counsel, do not know as much as they should about the opposing counsel.

In my opinion, too much attention is focused on venue and not enough on the plaintiff’s attorney. We have seen that bad things can happen even in defense-oriented venues, given the wrong set of facts. Many plaintiff firms have the ability to turn something like a soft tissue claim into a million-dollar settlement or verdict with the right work up.

Claim professionals should insist that the defense counsel provides specific information on the strengths and characteristics of the plaintiff’s counsel:

  • Are they skilled litigators?
  • Do they generally settle claims rather than try cases?
  • How well do they prepare?
  • Will they engage formidable experts?
  • Does their game plan include “bad faith setups”? Will they generally associate with “heavy hitters” on high stake cases?
  • Is the plaintiff’s firm proficient at inflating damage models particularly on concussion and mild traumatic brain injury claims? (This is frequently the difference between reasonable and excessive verdicts.)

Unfortunately, all too often, I review reports from defense counsel with very little information about the plaintiff’s attorney. Claim professionals should push for their defense counsel to provide those specifics and conduct their own independent research of the plaintiff’s counsel.

If you feel your defense counsel is not providing a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the plaintiff’s counsel, reach out to colleagues in the jurisdiction or your reinsurer. Surprisingly, or not, there is usually some useful information on the opposing counsel’s website about past successes. Plaintiff’s firms are not shy about touting their wins.

I think it’s very important for claim professionals to scout the opposition. Like a good football coach, you should fully understand the tendencies of the plaintiff’s firm and formulate a defense strategy to counteract it. Failure to do so could be similar to what happens when the sunny days of fall in the Northeast turn into the cold, bleak days of winter.


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