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Checklist for Preparing a Claims Professional for Deposition

Erin Doran


  • You can expect questions about the type of claims handled and previous experience.
  • Prepare the witness to handle questions about each and every document in the claim file.
  • Make sure the witness is prepared on company policies and procedures.
Checklist for Preparing a Claims Professional for Deposition
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Preparing a claims professional for a deposition can seem overwhelming. In addition to reviewing the claim file documents or other communications the claims professional authored or received, it helps to put together a list of issues that you need to cover with your witness. Here is a general checklist for consideration.

  1. Background and Employment History. Counsel for the policyholder will undoubtedly explore the claims professional’s work history and educational background. If the witness worked for other insurers, you can expect questions about the type of claims handled, previous experience with the type of claim at issue in this case, and previous experience with bad faith claims. Remember to prepare your witness to handle questions of this nature.
  2. Website Material. Insurance company websites and advertisements often contain slogans or marketing content. That material could be shown to the witness and the witness could be asked as to whether it complied with the statements in the company advertising or marketing content. This is also something to discuss with your witness in the preparation session.
  3. The Claim File Itself. Prepare the witness to handle questions about each and every document in the claim file. It is difficult to predict all of the documents policyholder counsel will use in the questioning. Be sure to prepare the witness on any specific forms or claims journals that are completed in the life of the claim, and the company policies and procedures with respect to those forms. If it is a liability claim with an underlying lawsuit, prepare the witness to be questioned on the procedures for interacting with defense counsel, and the required documentation from defense counsel to insurer.
  4. Company Manuals, Policies and Procedures. Even if the insurer claim guidelines or manuals have not been produced in a case, counsel for the policyholder may have obtained them from other sources, or might generally ask about this topic, so make sure the witness is prepared on company policies and procedures.
  5. Training. Many claims professionals receive “on the job training” or were trained at previous employers on basic claim handling procedures. Explore with your witness the nature of that training and ensure that the witness can appropriately describe the nature of formal training, including on the job training.
  6. Legal Requirements. Discuss with your witness any Unfair Claims Practices Act requirements within the jurisdiction at issue, or any other good faith obligations that are unique to the jurisdiction. Even if it is not a bad faith case, counsel for the policyholder may explore this area.
  7. Other Claims. Discuss a plan to address any questions about other claims the witness has handled. Testifying about other claims may delve into either the carrier’s or other insureds’ privileged and confidential information or communications.
  8. Corporate Chain of Command. Counsel for the policyholder may explore all of the other possible witnesses they may want to depose through this particular claims professional witness. Your claims professional should be prepared to address to whom her or she reports, any persons who report to him or her, and the general structure of the claims department. However, unless it is a 30(b)(6) deposition notice, your witness should only testify about people and positions they know about.
  9. The Witness Only Knows What They Know. It is important to reinforce with your claims professional to only answers questions about which he or she has knowledge or information. If asked about areas outside his or her job responsibilities, such as underwriting practices, other claims, or other functions of the company, the witness should disqualify themselves and say that he or she does not know, if, in fact, he or she does not know. Many witnesses tend to want to assist the deposing attorney by speculating or suggesting a partial answer on a question in an area about which the witness knows nothing.
  10. Instill Confidence. The claims professional who properly handled the claim should feel comfortable and confident in their work. The witness should be able to describe with confidence what they did and why they did it. It is important to remind the witness that the fact that he or she is being deposed does not mean that they did something wrong.. If the witness made a mistake, the witness should feel comfortable acknowledging it and explaining what happened.