– December 22, 2010
Last month, I discussed the building blocks needed to reduce claim and litigation costs, while still maintaining a strong focus on quality. Those building blocks included:
- collecting current data about your claims and litigation
- evaluating the claim and litigation work itself
- settling on a carrier claim and litigation handling philosophy
These building blocks create a foundation on which to build new processes and procedures that will reduce your claim and litigation costs, and maybe even decrease you volume as well. I refer this building process as looking at What I Have, What I Want, and What I See.
What I Have – All This Data
The data you collected regarding the current state of your claims and litigation is an excellent starting point. Examine your data and identify the areas that you wish to improve.
For a couple of reasons, while the amount of your legal spend may a visible target for improvement, don’t spend too much time on rate-issues first. This is because the impact of improved processes and procedures will likely decrease total spend naturally, without having to address rate issues. Focus instead on issues like overall litigated volume (the number of pending litigated claims), cycle time (the average amount of time litigated claims take to close from inception), severity (of your pending litigated claims), and other factors. Developing processes and procedures that improve these other factors is a good starting point.
What I Want – Creating The Benchmark
Look again at your non-dollar data. Think about what you believe those numbers should reflect. For instance, if the average time it takes a litigated claim to go from inception to closure is two years (730 days), you know that, on average, you will be paying panel counsel for two years to bring that matter to a close. Based on your knowledge and you your industry contacts, determine whether this number appears high. Do this for other non-dollar metrics that you have measured.
Look at each area you wish to improve and consider a practical benchmark and goal you would like to achieve. My advice is to not set arbitrary goals, as they bear no particular relation to what you will be able to achieve, and thus set your organization up for disappointment or worse. Instead, work with stakeholders in the process and think about how your metrics work together to form a complete picture.
Set incremental measurement points. Hypothetically, you may be starting with a two year cycle time and wish to set a benchmark objective of reducing that by six months, followed by a long-term goal of reducing it to one year. Again, always make sure that your objectives align with the other information you are obtaining. Do your objectives make sense in light of the jurisdiction, the severity of the portfolio, the type of case, and the claims handling philosophy of your organization?
You may have a very diverse book of cases and wish to develop benchmarks and goals first by line of business, or by stakeholder. In fact, when you start objectively considering all of the factors involved, you may end up with benchmarks and goals that look something like this:
- Overall Litigated Claim Pend Time – Current Average: 730 days
- Motor Vehicle Accident (simple): 550 days (benchmark); 365 days (goal)
- Product Liability 700 days (benchmark); 650 days (goal)
- XYZ Claim Professional 680 days (benchmark) ; 600 days (goal)
These numbers are purely arbitrary for the sake of example, but they are illustrative of processes you may wish to consider when examining your current situation and deciding how you’d like them to look in the future.
What I See – You Have To Look At What Is There
A continual focus on quality is critical. Higher-quality claim and litigated file management results not only in lower indemnity payments, but in decreased costs as well. As someone who has managed thousands of files with bad faith allegations, there is nothing more expensive than trying to successfully litigate a poor quality claim file.
One of the core building blocks of the process are evaluations – evaluations of all professionals involved in your litigation life-cycle, from claims professionals to attorneys. In looking at those evaluations (whether through internal or external audit), identify those practices that need to stop and those that are more likely to extend the cycle-time of your cases.
A simple example — in reviewing a number of litigated claims last year, I noticed a consistent pattern of defense counsel granting numerous extensions to opposing counsel to respond to written discovery. These numerous extensions were causing files to last for months with no activity (other than counsel billing for those activities associated with granting the extension). During my review, I made note of such patterns and then developed ways of addressing them through new procedures and processes. In addition, I also considered what I discovered in these evaluations and my solutions for addressing these issues in my benchmarking and goal-setting.
In the next and final part of this series, I will explore the nuts and bolts of the procedures, processes and guidelines that can be used when moving forward with a revamp of your litigation management system.