I think plaintiff lawyers should have written check lists for almost every step or procedure they follow in processing cases to avoid mistakes. Here is an example of a check list for a paralegal to follow in preparing the attorney for settlement negotiation and attorney demand procedure. The paralegal can do a lot to assist the lawyer in starting the settlement negotiation process. .
SETTLEMENT CHECKLIST FOR PARALEGAL
SETTLEMENT DEMAND LETTERS
If we are sending a settlement demand letter to an insurance company or defense attorney make sure the following is done..
- Client OK No demand letter can be sent until written client authority is obtained and filed by attorney
- Information needed The secretary should provide attorney the following information before seeking getting client authority for a demand.
- Costs to date & information about any unbilled costs. This includes any referring or associate attorney out of pocket costs as well as our own.
- The totals due for subrogation, liens, or amounts due as reimbursement.
- We will need the current totals of economic loss information such as: wage loss, Bills both past and future and property damage.
Use RED STAMP TITLED “CONFIDENTIAL SETTLEMENT MATERIALS” on first page of the demand letter the attorney drafts.
NOTICE Ask attorney if any of the following should get a copy of this demand: subrogation claimants, Medicaid, medicare, Labor & Industries, Welfare, Labor and Industries, Medical or other Insurance company
- Written client authority for demand and minimum settlement amount authorized must be obtained before the letter may be mailed.
Client copy Always send a copy of settlement demand letter with attachments to the client. Put one copy without attachments in correspondence.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR PREPARATION OF SETTLEMENT FILE
Open a green letter size file folder labeled “settlement” with client’s name. IT MUST CONTAIN THE FOLLOWING MATERIALS:
Settlement documents from client file:
Letters Copy of all letters between our office and insurance adjustor or defense attorney relating to settlement. The latest should be on top and arranged chronologically. Put under case summary sheet on right side of file.
Phone calls Include under “Phone” tab on left side of file any phone message or memo dealing with settlement.
E-Mails: Copies of all E-mails dealing with settlement
Fee agreement Include under “Fees” a copy of our fee agreement and any associate attorney fee division letter, agreement or memo.
Notice letters Include with correspondence letters giving notice to others of the mediation.
Forms: Insert in File
Settlement Summary memorandum for signature of all parties if settlement is reached. Settlements not binding unless a) in writing or b) made of record. See Howard v Dimaggio 70 Wa App 734 (1933) See CR 2A & RCW 2.44.010. Put loose in file copies of form “Settlement Summary.” Also, punch and put one under tab. Have copies for mediator, defense lawyer and client.
Settlement History Form Put the form “Negotiation History” on top left side of file.
Have diary reminder to see that a completed copy is in the green file if settlement is reached.
Cost advanced Include under tab “Costs” on left side of file a current up to date copy of our costs advanced. Do same with associate attorney’s costs.
Form: Negotiation History Put on top left side the form regarding the negotiation history for the file.
Client OK & Attorney Evaluation Include under tab “Client OK” any letter, form, memo or phone message regarding the client’s authority to us to settle case. If none, ask attorney about it and put memo as to what’s said under this tab.
Check Lists Include on left side under negotiation history this check list. MAKE SURE EVERY APPLICABLE ITEM HAS BEEN REVIEWED, COMPLETED AND CHECKED OFF
Put copy of attorney settlement check list under above check list.
Put your name on the top right side of the settlement checklist in the green file after you have filled it out to show you have gone through the check list.
Summary Sheet Check case summary sheet. Make certain it is accurate and current. Put on left side of file over correspondence.
FILL IN ACCURATELY AMOUNT OF AVAILABLE INSURANCE
FILL IN ACCURATELY TRIAL DATE.
Insurance Include under tab “Ins” on left side of file any interrogatories which give insurance coverage. Copy any memos, letters etc which might effect insurance coverage. Put under same tab.
Subrogation You must verify subrogation amounts for settlement negotiation conferences or mediation..
It is very important that we give notice to the proper people of any settlement conference or mediation of any kind. We normally would send such people a copy of whatever we submit and invite them to attend or be available during the settlement proceedings. Ask the attorney about the following:
Normally our client must attend the mediation. Ask attorney. If client attendance required:Send client form letter about mediation and the need to bring reading material.
Ask attorney if a client conference with attorney in advance of conference is needed. Find out if that should be before the day of hearing or day of hearing and arrange with client.
Ask attorney if meeting on day of mediation with client should be arranged. If so, allow normally 30 minutes for this conference. Normally this will be in the same place as where the mediation is going to take place. Make sure the letter spells this out where the meeting will take place.
Out of town clients. If the Client is traveling some distance ask the lawyer about putting the client up at a hotel the night before
Associate Attorney. Make sure associate counsel is aware of the conference.
Labor & Industries: RCW 51.24.030 requires notice to the Dept of L & I of any complaint filed as well as pleadings etc. They MUST be given notice of any settlement proceedings. Check with the attorney as to what documents should be provided to them.
DSHS RCW 43.20b.070 requires notice to the DSHS of the filing of any complaint as well as other information. Under RCW 74.09.180 and 43.20B.060 DSHS is given a lien against any settlement. Check with the attorney as to whether notice should be given to DSHS of mediation and what documents should be provided.
SUBROGATION CLAIMANTS Subrogation claimants must be notified. Check with the attorney about this as it is very important. Ask who to notify and what to say.
Our Office The people in our law office responsible for subrogation must be notified as soon as the mediation or settlement meeting is scheduled.
STEPS REGARDING SUBROGATION. Check on the following. This information should be in the green file under a tab “Subro” on the left side:
__1. Labor & Industries: Verify amounts due in repayment.
__2. DSHS Verify amounts due in repayment.
__3. Medicare. 42 USC 1395 gives them rights of reimbursement. They must be considered before any settlement is made. Ask if verification is necessary.
__4. ERISA. Private insurance claiming privileges under ERISA must be considered before any settlement can be reached. Ask if verification is necessary.
__5. MEDICAL INS. Subrogation claimed by medical insurance carriers must be considered. Verify amount due.
__6. Other: Review file and discuss with attorney any other subrogation or liens that must be verified before the mediation.
__7. Make sure the list of subrogation claimants and amounts are provided
__2. Normally a settlement demand letter should be mailed before this conference takes place. Make sure this is included in a green settlement folder for attorney.
ATTORNEY TO DO:
__1. Write client. Advise client about following:
__a. Explain terms of settlement
__b. Should client consider new wills?
__c. Should client consider increasing their liability insurance on car, house, boat etc? Buy an excess policy?
__d. Suggest client get financial advice. Give names.
B. SECRETARY PROJECTS
__1. Prepare diary reminders about each of above attorney asks client to take care of to see if done or not
___2. Notify: Notify the following people that the case has been settled. Secretary to do Tickler to see this is done.
__3. Collect bills & subro Jeanne to write experts, creditors and subrogation people. Contact associate attorney re costs. Secretary to do tickler to see this is done.
__4. Settlement Breakdown: Jeanne to prepare settlement breakdown for attorney approval and client approval. Secretary to do tickler to see this done.
__5. Collect the money. Every settlement should have deadline for receipt of the money. Ask the attorney. Secretary to prepare a tickler to the attorney to see if collected. Jeanne to do tickler get settlement check.
__6. When money here. When money received advise attorney
__7. Form Disbursement letter Be sure to use standard letter enclosing check advising client unable to give tax information, advising the amount of any interest earned, indicating anything significant re subrogation or money held back.
__8. Delivering client money. Attorney to present final settlement check to client if clients comes in.
__9. Minor Child Proceeds
__(1) If minor involved must follow approval procedure
a. Appointment GAL
c. Petition for approval/fees/division
__8. Liens: If liens involved must have approval to settle