Last month we explored how litigation affects claims and why it is the adjuster who manages the claim file and litigation, deciding when to settle and when to fight, knowing that court fights are expensive. Adjusters must make correct decisions based on the law in the jurisdiction where the claim occurred — and within the terms of the policy contract. But that “law” is generally not statutory law passed by the legislature, but rather the doctrines and legal principles determined by courts in that jurisdiction.

How does one know what the law is unless a review is made of every prior applicable case in that jurisdiction to see what was decided? Adjusters must keep current on what their courts are determining; that is part of continuing education. Most claims involve tort law — not statutory law — and are subject to legal theories and doctrines established by earlier court decisions, although a future court may reverse those decisions. What happens at the “trial court” level is subject to change.

The loser in a trial may ask the judge for a “directed verdict notwithstanding judgment,” request a re-trial, or suggest jury error. If jurors were “caught napping” during testimony, it may be grounds for a mistrial. There is the right of appeal. Appeals are the reason a court reporter takes down every word and grunt made by everyone testifying. Once an appeal is filed, then the case is transferred to an appellate attorney for review. The appeal will involve many billable hours of detailed research. Appellate attorneys work from the file material provided at trial from both the plaintiff and defense.

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