Many firms are keen to be actively involved in drafting the letter in response to a claim against them, and some insurers also request the firms they insure to prepare the first draft for them to review. The quality of the response to a letter of claim can make all the difference to the future direction of that matter – or whether it is even pursued at all.
Some important tips and hints for drafting your response to a letter of claim is the subject of this article by senior claims executive, Nicola Vince.
Letter writing for claims – Hints and Tips
For those solicitors who deal with claims against their firm, an important part of the role will involve responding to correspondence that makes (or intimates) a claim or complaint. Whilst insurers are there to assist and guide you, under the terms of your policy you are required to provide full co-operation and assistance with the investigation, defence, settlement or mitigation of any actual or potential claim. Insurers will therefore often request that letters are drafted by you.
Whilst this can be time-consuming, it helps you to retain control over correspondence and the relationship with your client. Sometimes insurers’ drafting may not be the most appropriate as you know the situation best.
The solicitors’ claims team at Howden have produced a bulletin with useful hints, tips and advice based on our experience of reviewing and discussing draft responses with insurers. We recommend that those who deal with claims in your firm read the full version of the bulletin which is available here:
In the meantime, we set out a summary of some of the hints and tips from the bulletin below:
- Do give yourself enough time to draft a suitable response and also allow time for insurers to consider this.
- Do, as far as possible, respond in a timely fashion to avoid the matter escalating and the possibility of criticism from your regulator.
- Do stick to the facts as much as possible. It is best to avoid using emotive language. Try to refrain from sending overly detailed responses unless it is essential, as this can encourage unnecessarily lengthy correspondence that goes beyond the relevant issues.
- Do when acknowledging a complaint, set out the timescales contained within your complaints procedure. This will save you being chased by your client and helps manage their expectations. If it becomes clear you cannot make the indicated timeframes, inform the client accordingly.
- Don’t make admissions or imply acceptance of liability unless previously discussed with your insurers.
- Don’t make any offers to settle or indemnify any losses within your letter unless this has been discussed and approved by insurers.
- Don’t send any correspondence without prior reference to your insurers. This can open a door for insurers to take issue with your position and in serious cases, reserve their rights under the policy. If you have a tight time frame, please give us a call or mark your email as urgent and we will do all we can to respond quickly and obtain urgent instructions where required.
- Don’t over-complicate matters. Once again, stick to the facts to avoid a client’s ability to draw inferences from comments or omissions that were not necessarily required in the response.
- Don’t try and rectify the mistake or make offers to do so without the prior consent of your insurers. It will not always be appropriate.
Wise words and phrases
What you are trying to say
Example of how to phrase it
|We accept that we breached our duty as we failed to file the Claim Form in time||The Claim Form was not filed on or before (xx) date.|
|You do not have a claim as you have not suffered any loss!||We cannot properly consider any claim without documentary evidence of any loss.|
|We told you there was a risk of (xx)||As per our correspondence dated (xx) and / or as per the meeting / phone call of (xx), we advised that there was a risk of (xx).|
|This was my mistake and you may be able to pursue a claim against this firm instead.||On the basis of the content of this letter, you may consider it appropriate to obtain independent legal advice.|
|We cannot come back to you as we are awaiting instructions from our insurers.||We are currently investigating and considering the matter and will revert as soon as we are able.|
|Given what has happened, we do not want to act for you any further as this could lead to further issues.||Unfortunately we are unable to continue to act as it appears that a conflict of interest has arisen.|
As a firm, you want to ensure that you reach the best possible outcome for any claim or potential claim notified under the policy. Your broker or insurer claims team will be able to discuss matters with you and offer guidance in relation to draft letters or notifications generally. They see these claims on a daily basis – and can share that knowledge and expertise with you.
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