Case Handling Guidelines

 

The West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Board recently issued an opinion concerning insurance company billing guidelines.  L.E.I. # 2005-01, entitled “Whether An Agreement To Abide By Insurance Company Imposed Billing Guidelines Violates The Rules of Professional Conduct?” was formally issued by the Lawyer Disciplinary Board on February 4, 2005.  This ethics opinion was issued in response to a 2002 legal ethics inquiry from the DTCWV as “to whether an agreement to accept and abide by billing requirements and guidelines imposed by a liability insurer for the client would violate the rules of professional conduct.”    The Lawyer Disciplinary concluded that “when an attorney is retained and paid by an insurance company to defend an insured, the attorney cannot ethically agree to adhere to insurance company guidelines that  (1) dictate how work is to be allocated among defense team members by designating what tasks are to be performed by a secretary, paralegal, associate, or a senior attorney; (2) restrict or require approval before conducting discovery, engaging in motion practice, preparing for trial, or otherwise performing substantive work with respect to the matter for which the attorney has been engaged; or, (3) otherwise impose a financial penalty or create an economic disincentive with respect to the lawyer’s exercise of independent professional judgment.”  The DTCWV Board felt that this was an important issue that had a significant, practical impact on the practice of law by many defense lawyers and that West Virginia’s Lawyer Disciplinary Board should provide some guidance and help defense lawyers practically and ethically maneuver within the tripartite relationship of the insured, his insurance company, and the retained defense lawyer.  
 
 
Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia
P. O. Box 527, Charleston, WV 25322-0527
304-344-1611, 304-344-4711 fax