Insurance disclosure form proposed

first_imgInsurance disclosure form proposedA proposed disclosure form to be given to insurance company policy holders when they are sued and a Bar rule to implement how the form is used are being presented to Bar members for comment.The Board of Governors got its first look at the implementing rule at its April 7 meeting. It will come back — along with the form which was reviewed by the board at its February meeting — to the board for final approval June 2 in Naples.Board member David Bianchi, chair of the Insurance Practice Special Study Committee, said the form, the first such in the nation, is attracting the attention of other states.“If the board votes to approve it at the next meeting, and I hope you will, we will be the model for the country, because other states are lining up waiting for us to roll it out,” he said.The form would let policy holders know of their rights and responsibilities when they are sued and their insurance company appoints a lawyer to defend them.Bianchi said it was presented to the Bar’s Citizens Forum at its April 6 meeting and forum members were enthusiastic about the document.“I’m very happy to tell you they loved it. They said it was fabulous and they wanted to say how appreciative they were of the language that was used and the tone. They said it was precise and clear,” Bianchi said. “Two of them had recently been sued in small auto accidents and they said they wished they had had this.”Comments on the form and proposed rule may be sent to Mary Ellen Bateman, Bar Unlicensed Practice of Law Counsel, 651 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee 32399-2300. Comments may be e-mailed to mbateman@FLABAR.org. The proposed form and rule change follows. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE ASK FOR AN EXPLANATION. April 30, 2000 Regular News Insurance disclosure form proposedcenter_img RULE 4-1.8 CONFLICT OF INTEREST; PROHIBITED AND OTHER TRANSACTIONS(a) Business Transactions With or Acquiring Interest Adverse to Client. A lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client, except a lien granted by law to secure a lawyer’s fee or expenses, unless:(1) the transaction and terms on which the lawyer acquires the interest are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner that can be reasonably understood by the client;(2) the client is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel in the transaction; and(3) the client consents in writing thereto.(b) Using Information to Disadvantage of Client. A lawyer shall not use information relating to representation of a client to the disadvantage of the client unless the client consents after consultation, except as permitted or required by rule 4-1.6.(c) Gifts to Lawyer or Lawyer’s Family. A lawyer shall not prepare an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer as parent, child, sibling, or spouse any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, except where the client is related to the donee.(d) Acquiring Literary or Media Rights. Prior to the conclusion of representation of a client, a lawyer shall not make or negotiate an agreement giving the lawyer literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.(e) Financial Assistance to Client. A lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, except that:(1) a lawyer may advance court costs and expenses of litigation, the repayment of which may be contingent on the outcome of the matter; and(2) a lawyer representing an indigent client may pay court costs and expenses of litigation on behalf of the client.(f) Compensation by Third Party. A lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:(1) the client consents after consultation;(2) there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and(3) information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by rule 4-1.6.(g) Settlement of Claims for Multiple Clients. A lawyer who represents 2 or more clients shall not participate in making an aggregate settlement of the claims of or against the clients, or in a criminal case an aggregated agreement as to guilty or nolo contendere pleas, unless each client consents after consultation, including disclosure of the existence and nature of all the claims or pleas involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.(h) Limiting Liability for Malpractice. A lawyer shall not make an agreement prospectively limiting the lawyer’s liability to a client for malpractice unless permitted by law and the client is independently represented in making the agreement. A lawyer shall not settle a claim for such liability with an unrepresented client or former client without first advising that person in writing that independent representation is appropriate in connection therewith.(i) Acquiring Proprietary Interest in Cause of Action. A lawyer shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation the lawyer is conducting for a client, except that the lawyer may:(1) acquire a lien granted by law to secure the lawyer’s fee or expenses; and(2) contract with a client for a reasonable contingent fee.(j) Representation of Insureds. When a lawyer undertakes the defense of an insured in regard to an action or claim for personal injury or for property damages, or for death or loss of services resulting from personal injuries based upon tortious conduct, including product liability claims, the Statement of Insured Client’s Rights shall be provided to the insured at the commencement of the representation. The lawyer shall sign the statement certifying the date the statement was provided to the insured. The lawyer shall keep a copy of the signed statement in the client’s file, and shall retain a copy of the signed statement for 6 years after the representation is completed. The statement shall be available for inspection at reasonable times by the insured, or by the appropriate disciplinary agency. Nothing in the Statement of Insured Client’s Rights shall be deemed to augment or detract from any substantive or ethical duty of a lawyer, nor affect the extra-disciplinary consequences of violating an existing substantive legal or ethical duty; nor shall any matter set forth in the Statement of Insured Client’s Rights give rise to an independent cause of action or create any presumption that an existing legal or ethical duty has been breached. STATEMENT OF INSURED CLIENT’S RIGHTS An insurance company has selected a lawyer to defend a lawsuit or claim against you. This Statement of Insured Client’s Rights is being given to you to assure that you are aware of your rights regarding your legal representation. This disclosure statement highlights many, but not all, of your rights when your legal representation is being provided by the insurance company. 1. Your Lawyer. If you have questions concerning the selection of the lawyer by the insurance company, you should discuss the matter with the insurance company and the lawyer. As a client, you have the right to know about the lawyer’s education, training, and experience. If you ask, the lawyer should tell you specifically about the lawyer’s actual experience dealing with cases similar to yours and give you this information in writing, if you request it. Your lawyer is responsible to keep you reasonably informed regarding the case and promptly comply with your reasonable requests for information. You are entitled to be informed of the final disposition of your case within a reasonable time. 2. Fees and Costs. Usually the insurance company pays all of the fees and costs of defending the claim. If you are responsible for directly paying the lawyer for any fees or costs, your lawyer must inform you.3. Directing the Lawyer. If your policy, like most insurance policies, provides for the insurance company to control the defense of the lawsuit, the lawyer will be taking instructions from the insurance company. Under such policies, the lawyer cannot act solely on your instructions, and at the same time, cannot act contrary to your interests. Your preferences should be communicated to the lawyer.4. Litigation Guidelines. Many insurance companies establish guidelines governing how lawyers are to proceed in defending a claim. Sometimes such guidelines affect the range of actions the lawyer can take, and may require authorization of the insurance company before certain actions are undertaken. You are entitled to know the guidelines affecting the extent and level of legal services being provided to you. Upon request, the lawyer or the insurance company should either explain such guidelines to you or provide you with a copy. If the lawyer is denied authorization to provide a service or undertake an action the lawyer believes necessary to your defense, you are entitled to be informed that the insurance company has declined authorization for the service or action. 5. Confidentiality. Lawyers have a general duty to keep secret the confidential information a client provides, subject to limited exceptions. However, the lawyer chosen to represent you may also have a duty to share with the insurance company information relating to defense or settlement of the claim. If the lawyer learns information indicating that the insurance company is not obligated under the policy to cover the claim or provide a defense, the lawyer’s duty is to maintain that information in confidence. If the lawyer cannot do so, the lawyer may be required to withdraw from the representation without disclosing to the insurance company the nature of the conflict of interest which has arisen. Whenever a waiver of the lawyer-client confidentiality privilege is needed, your lawyer has a duty to consult with you and obtain your informed consent. Some insurance companies retain auditing companies to review the billings and files of the lawyers they hire to represent policyholders. If the lawyer believes a bill review or other action releases information in a manner that is contrary to your interests, the lawyer should advise you regarding the matter.6. Conflicts of Interest. Most insurance policies state that the insurance company will provide a lawyer to represent your interests as well as those of the insurance company. The lawyer is responsible for identifying conflicts of interest. If at any time you believe the lawyer provided by the insurance company cannot fairly represent you because of conflict of interests between you and the company (such as over coverage of the claim), you should discuss this with the lawyer and explain why you believe there is a conflict. If an actual conflict of interest arises that cannot be resolved, the insurance company may be required to provide you with another lawyer.7. Settlement. Many policies state the insurance company alone may make a final decision regarding settlement of a claim, but under some policies your agreement is required. If you want to object to or encourage a settlement within policy limits, you should discuss your concerns with your lawyer to learn your rights and possible consequences. No settlement of the case requiring you to pay money in excess of your policy limits can be reached without your agreement, following full disclosure.8. Your Risk. If you lose the case, there might be a judgment entered against you for more than the amount of your insurance, and you might have to pay it. Your lawyer has a duty to advise you about this risk and other reasonably foreseeable adverse results. 9. Hiring Your Own Lawyer. The lawyer provided by the insurance company is representing you only to defend the lawsuit. If you desire to pursue a claim against the other side, or desire legal services not directly related to the defense of the lawsuit against you, you will need to make your own arrangements with this or another lawyer. You may also hire another lawyer, at your own expense, to monitor the defense being provided by the insurance company. If there is a reasonable risk that the claim made against you exceeds the amount of coverage under your policy, you should consider consulting another lawyer.10. Reporting Violations. If at any time you believe that your lawyer has acted in violation of your rights, you have the right to report the matter to The Florida Bar, the agency that oversees the practice and behavior of all lawyers in Florida. For information on how to reach The Florida Bar call (850) 561-5839 or you may access the Bar at www.FlaBar.org. CERTIFICATE The undersigned hereby certifies that this Statement of Insured Client’s Rights has been provided to [name of insured/client(s)] by [mail] [hand delivery] at [address of insured/client(s) to which mailed or delivered] this day of, 20___. [Signature of Attorney] [Print/Type Name]Florida Bar No.: Comment–Transactions between client and lawyer As a general principle, all transactions between client and lawyer should be fair and reasonable to the client. In such transactions a review by independent counsel on behalf of the client is often advisable. Furthermore, a lawyer may not exploit information relating to the representation to the client’s disadvantage. For example, a lawyer who has learned that the client is investing in specific real estate may not, without the client’s consent, seek to acquire nearby property where doing so would adversely affect the client’s plan for investment. Subdivision (a) does not, however, apply to standard commercial transactions between the lawyer and the client for products or services that the client generally markets to others, for example, banking or brokerage services, medical services, products manufactured or distributed by the client, and utilities services. In such transactions the lawyer has no advantage in dealing with the client, and the restrictions in subdivision (a) are unnecessary and impracticable. Likewise, subdivision (a) does not prohibit a lawyer from acquiring or asserting a lien granted by law to secure the lawyer’s fee or expenses. A lawyer may accept a gift from a client, if the transaction meets general standards of fairness. For example, a simple gift such as a present given at a holiday or as a token of appreciation is permitted. If effectuation of a substantial gift requires preparing a legal instrument such as a will or conveyance, however, the client should have the detached advice that another lawyer can provide. Subdivision (c) recognizes an exception where the client is a relative of the donee or the gift is not substantial.Literary rightsAn agreement by which a lawyer acquires literary or media rights concerning the conduct of the representation creates a conflict between the interests of the client and the personal interests of the lawyer. Measures suitable in the representation of the client may detract from the publication value of an account of the representation. Subdivision (d) does not prohibit a lawyer representing a client in a transaction concerning literary property from agreeing that the lawyer’s fee shall consist of a share in ownership in the property if the arrangement conforms to rule 4-1.5 and subdivision (i).Person paying for lawyer’s servicesRule 4-1.8(f) requires disclosure of the fact that the lawyer’s services are being paid for by a third party. Such an arrangement must also conform to the requirements of rule 4-1.6 concerning confidentiality and rule 4-1.7 concerning conflict of interest. Where the client is a class, consent may be obtained on behalf of the class by court-supervised procedure.Acquisition of interest in litigationSubdivision (i) states the traditional general rule that lawyers are prohibited from acquiring a proprietary interest in litigation. This general rule, which has its basis in common law champerty and maintenance, is subject to specific exceptions developed in decisional law and continued in these rules, such as the exception for reasonable contingent fees set forth in rule 4-1.5 and the exception for certain advances of the costs of litigation set forth in subdivision (e).This rule is not intended to apply to customary qualification and limitations in legal opinions and memoranda. Representation of Insureds As with any representation of a client where another person or client is paying for the representation, the representation of an insured client at the request of the insurer creates a special need for the lawyer to be cognizant of the potential for ethical risks. The nature of the relationship between a lawyer and client can lead to the insured or the insurer having expectations inconsistent with the duty of the lawyer to maintain confidences, to avoid conflicts of interest, and otherwise to comply with professional standards. When a lawyer undertakes the representation of an insured client at the expense of the insurer, the lawyer should ascertain whether the lawyer will be representing both the insured and the insurer, or only the insured. Communication with both the insured and the insurer promotes their mutual understanding of the role of the lawyer in the particular representation. The Statement of Insured Client’s Rights has been developed to facilitate the lawyer’s performance of ethical responsibilities. The highly variable nature of insurance and the responsiveness of the insurance industry in developing new types of coverages for risks arising in the dynamic American economy, render it impractical to establish a statement of rights applicable to all forms of insurance. The Statement of Insured Client’s Rights is intended to apply to personal injury and property damage tort cases. Even in that relatively narrow area of insurance coverage, there is variability among policies. For that reason, the statement is necessarily broad. It is the responsibility of the lawyer to explain the statement to the insured. In particular cases, the lawyer may need to provide additional information to the insured. Since the purpose of the statement is to assist lay persons in understanding their basic rights as clients, it is necessarily abbreviated. While brevity promotes the purpose for which the statement was developed, it also necessitates incompleteness. For these reasons, it is specifically provided that the statement shall not serve to establish any legal rights or duties, nor create any presumption that an existing legal or ethical duty has been breached. As a result, the statement and its contents should not be invoked by opposing parties as grounds for disqualification of a lawyer or for procedural purposes. The purpose of the statement would be subverted if it could be used in such a manner. The statement is to be signed by the lawyer to establish that it was timely provided to the insured, but the insured client is not required to sign it. It is in the best interests of the lawyer to have the insured client sign the statement to avoid future questions, but it is considered impractical to require the lawyer to obtain the insured client’s signature. Establishment of the statement and the duty to provide it to an insured in tort cases involving personal injury or property damage should not be construed as lessening the duty of the lawyer to inform clients of their rights in other circumstances. When other types of insurance are involved, or where there are other third-party payors of fees, or where multiple clients are represented, similar needs for fully informing clients exist, as recognized in rule 4-1.7(c) and rule 4-1.8(f).last_img read more