Normally, the days and weeks following a major catastrophe is a time when corporations and their insurance companies engage in take-no-prisoners battles over how much companies are entitled to under their policies. In that respect, the recently announced formation of a group to represent the often-conflicting perspectives of insurers and policyholders with claims issues couldn’t have come at a better time than the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
The American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel (ACCEC), which reported its formation on November 8, expects that the complex coverage questions emerging from Sandy will launch discussions of “ethics, civility, and litigation, which are critically important,” says Thomas F. Segalla, the college’s inaugural president. “The relationship between the policyholder counsel and counsel for insurance carriers still has to be ethical and civil.”
Some of the firms represented on the group’s board of regents have “already begun participating in outreach to policyholders and the industry by providing checklists and webinars,” he adds, noting, “we will be monitoring some of that because many of us have been involved in hurricane disputes, like Katrina.”
The college’s mission includes educating all sectors involved in insurance disputes — including the judiciary, legal and insurance professionals, and businesses — on topics such as best practices in policy formation and claims handling, developing trends in insurance law, and bad faith.
Another important component, according to the ACCEC, is increasing civility and professionalism to improve relations between insurer and policyholder counsel, resulting in better representation for clients. The college will engage in a variety of activities, including seminars and scholarships to promote these goals.
Since announcement of the ACCEC’s formation, Segalla says, “we have had tremendous correspondence from other lawyers and claims people throughout the country about the American College, and we’re moving the membership process forward.”
All of the 16 regents are lawyers, and the remaining membership will consist of additional lawyers, risk managers, and members of the insurance industry from the United States and Canada, he explains.
The group is in the process of planning its first educational program, which is scheduled for May 7, 2013, in Chicago. The program, says Segalla, will provide “a vehicle to address many of the critical issues of policyholders and the insurance industry, as well as the judiciary, offering educational guidance with respect to issues being faced.”