Getting to the Straight Talk

Posted on June 11, 2020 by Chip Merlin

An ideal attorney-client relationship depends on honest communication and teamwork

Attorneys often get a bad rap. We’re right down there with used-car dealers ready to sell lemons. The stereotype isn’t flattering, but that’s just the way it goes. Many potential clients come into an initial consultation with a strong dose of mistrust regarding the legal system as a whole, and that’s understandable. I get it. Lots of crazy stuff can go on in court. Most people hire attorneys when things go wrong in life or business. 

But there is an old saying worth noting: “Everybody hates lawyers, until they need one.”

When I meet with a potential client for the first time, I try to make the person feel comfortable enough to share all the facts regarding the case, and not just the favorable ones. I listen to the person, and I keep an open mind. An effective attorney-client relationship is essentially a partnership based on honest and frank communication, not unlike what makes for a happy marriage. If I don’t have all the pertinent information, I can’t effectively represent the client. 

If your home or business is damaged in a hurricane, tornado, flood, fire, earthquake, or even from a sinkhole, the first thing to do, after making certain you are safe, is to document the damage via video or photographs. Make note of any witnesses on site just after the loss, just in case a question arises as to the validity of the claim. Next, call your insurance agent and your carrier to let them know of the loss. Prompt notification of a claim is one of the conditions of your contract with the insurance company. Failure to act promptly can give the company an excuse to void the claim.

Keep a detailed timeline. I recommend using a calendar or day planner to document every single thing that happens regarding the claim. For example, if you had a contractor come out to give you an estimate on repair costs, document it. And make sure that the contractor documents everything as well, such as costs for labor and materials, especially if work must be performed prior to a visit from a field adjuster. A chronological timeline will help me piece your case together if something later goes wrong. This timeline will help me find ways to assist that I might have missed if I didn’t have all the details. 

A recent case illustrates the need for teamwork and communication. In the Florida Keys, some homes are raised up on concrete stilts. Insulation is installed underneath the floors to keep the heat out. After the hurricane, the insulation in my client’s floor was destroyed. The field adjuster missed the damage because it was already taken away by the time they arrived, but my client had photos and witnesses. This came in handy when the insurance company disputed the claim, saying that there was no way insulation could be under the floor.

The case dragged on, but the bottom line is we wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on without the client’s photos and witnesses. With all the information at hand, it’s much easier to win cases.


Justice For The Policyholder

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