Don’t Let Insurers Use Attorney-Client Privilege to Shield Claims Handling Documents

James R. Murray, Jared Zola and Omid Safa

Murray, James R. Zola, Jared Safa, OmidUpon receiving an insurance claim from its policyholder, an insurer is obligated to promptly and reasonably investigate, adjust, and determine whether to pay a claim. Those are fundamental aspects of an insurer’s business that arise with respect to every claim. Reports by insurance investigators or adjusters, prepared during the processing of a claim, are discoverable as made in the regular course of the insurer’s business.

Insurers frequently allege that attorneys working for the insurers perform or assist with the claim investigation or adjustment and then assert privilege in an effort to avoid producing such reports during litigation. Policyholders should be wary of any such assertion and consider case law from across the country compelling insurers to produce claims handling documents (and related testimony) generated by or in connection with insurer coverage counsel. Many courts hold that the decision to have lawyers undertake or be involved in basic claims handling functions does not imbue this business task with privilege, and protection from discovery. Thus, communications among these attorney claims handlers, independent claims personnel, and insurers about the results of their claim handling activities should not be cloaked in privilege. Continue reading “Don’t Let Insurers Use Attorney-Client Privilege to Shield Claims Handling Documents”