Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Never Say Never

Why it may be ill advised for an insurance company to say that it will never go off panel to assign work to insurance defense attorneys…

Recently, Mills & Associates logged into a webcast sponsored by an insurance industry organization.  The webcast’s expert panel was convened to discuss how defense attorneys could better improve the “insurance defense relationship”.

As I listened to the panel members, it was reinforced to me how much insurance companies like to follow predetermined guidelines, directives and procedures.  This is especially true when it comes to selecting and using insurance defense counsel.  Generally, insurance companies use the attorneys with whom they have tried and true relationships.  Once they develop a panel, they want to stick with it and usually their rules forbid the use of attorneys not on the panel.


I know that I will never convince insurance carriers to change their stripes regarding how they select their attorneys.  However, I know that insurance companies paint themselves into a corner when they say that they will “never use anyone but panel counsel” to handle their assignments.  There are just too many situations where a panel attorney is not going to work out.

The first instance is where there are conflicts of interest.  Since insurance companies and the attorneys are both renowned for their litigiousness, there are bound to be circumstances where the panel firms find themselves in a conflict.  The conflict might exist between two insureds, two insurance companies or between the carrier and its insured.  There are a number of times when insurance companies with whom I have had no prior relationship have approached me to represent their insured because of conflicts.

A second situation where the insurance company may consider going off-panel to find an attorney would be where the company is reviewing and possibly expanding its panel list.  Carriers have approached Mills & Associates with one or two cases saying that they are looking to expand their panel and want to find out how we would work out.  This situation is good for both the attorneys and the carriers.  Opening up the list to “new blood” gives both parties the chance to see if the relationship is a good fit and to find out if current panel counsel is delivering sufficient value to the company.

A third example is where the carrier finds that the panel counsel lacks knowledge or experience in a particular area of the law or in the local rules and customs to adequately represents their interest.  Mills & Associates has been approached on a number of occasions to represent parties, where panel counsel was an out of state firm and insight into Nevada customs and practices was absolutely necessary.

Like many other industries, the insurance world is changing and evolving.  The insurance companies with whom we work expect its attorneys to be flexible and meet these changes head on.  We would only ask that the insurance industry recognize that it too should prepare for situations where panel counsel just won’t do.  Perhaps it will take the creation of a “conflicts” panel from which the company can draw when conflicts arise.  Perhaps during its periodic review of the current panel the company can allow for a “test drive” of new attorneys who may be able to deliver better value than the current panel.  Or finally, it may just be that companies need to be open to the idea that there are attorneys out there that have gained experience that the current “panel attorneys” do not have.

Insurance companies with whom we have dealt have recognized the wisdom in these ideas and have given us the chance to prove how we can deliver valuable services and information to them.   We would like to do the same for your insurance company.

Mills & Associates Insurance Lawyers 702-240-6060

About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

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