For this week’s Guest Post Friday here at Construction Law Musings we welcome Jeff Childs. Jeff is the Marketing Director at Advise & Consult, Inc., which is a nationwide construction expert witness firm with locations in 17 different states, including Virginia, with experts covering the construction spectrum. We have been in business since 2001 with our owner being one of the country’s leading independent Xactimate trainers and expert witnesses having testified in cases all over the country. We also have one of the top former OSHA inspectors that worked for OSHA for over 30 years, as well as a leading forensic architect on staff to help with all of your construction related cases. For more information, please visit our website and give us a call today so we can get working with you on your next case!
We recently featured an article on our website describing survey results of annoying things that attorneys do to their adjuster clients, and what they can do to improve. It was by far the most read article that we have had in quite some time. It can be read here for those who are curious.
In giving my fellow attorney friends an opportunity of rebuttal – and what attorney wouldn’t like to take that opportunity – I have a summary of what bugs them about their professional clients, and hopefully a few suggestions on overcoming them to make all of our jobs just a little easier.
The first complaint area is communication. Email has become such an integral part of our communication culture, yet for some, has become a problem that they would like to do without. Grammar was a pet peeve that was mentioned that should be avoided. Since email communication is admissible in court, it has the potential to be looked unfavorably upon the attorney – even if they are not the one sending the grammatically incorrect email. Take a little extra time in typing, editing and proof reading those emails to make sure that the information is correct and a written in a way that reflects favorably upon yourself as well as those involved in the case.
Promptly responding to emails was also mentioned as a concern. I am not sure what a “prompt” response is, but often we get an almost immediate response, that when a response takes a few hours or even a day or two before getting a reply can be excruciating. There are times that we just can’t respond – even in the age of mobile communication. If the matter is of extra importance or time, use email tools such as the ! High Importance tag or send your email with a request delivery receipt or request a read receipt so you know that they have received and read the email. If further communication is needed, maybe a phone call is in order.
When an email is sent, make sure that all of the information that is needed is included, such as case number, names, dates and other pertinent information. Adjusters need to answer activity log questions so that contractors can keep moving the job forward without delaying the policyholder’s repairs. This process can become muddled when failure to fill in the necessary information promptly and accurately.
Money seems to always be a concern – whether it is paying someone else, or getting someone to pay you. A couple of examples brought up in my survey included one attorney dealing with adjusters that claim that they needed to get authority to pay invoices and for that approval to take four months.
The other example arises when a case reaches a settlement at the mandatory settlement conference. The attorney notes that adjusters routinely close their files at that point which make it increasingly difficult to get further payment for writing and approving the settlement, obtain releases as well as pay experts and court reporters.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to approve those adjusters to have authority to pay invoices up to, say $5,000 and to have a mandatory window that the file remains open to clear out all outstanding payments.
Pet peeves with expert witnesses were not as hot of a topic in our survey results, as noted by one responder, “Experts who perform poorly don’t receive more work. So they are more alert to their overall performance.” With that being said, there was a note of experts who double billed or did work that was unnecessary or not authorized or even having an unauthorized expert show up for inspections and billing for both experts. As with any group of people there are some that don’t shine the best light upon the rest of the group. At Advise & Consult, our expert witnesses look to not only represent their clients honestly and with integrity, but also their trade and the groups of expert witnesses as well as construction groups. We have a quote at A&C that we try to live by – “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth — to know the worst and provide for it.” Patrick Henry. There are certainly ‘hired guns’ out there that will say whatever their client wants them to, or some that flip flop their testimony, but we believe that you will be better prepared for defending your side of the case if you know all of the facts instead of getting blindsided later.