Last year the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an abrupt halt to in-person legal processes and court proceedings across the United States. Every aspect of claims handling and litigation management for case resolution demanded a new level of collaboration amongst the respective parties. Virtual mediation took center stage, offering an efficient platform for reaching productive dispute outcomes. Today, as courts are reopening and parties meet more often in person, the virtual mediation platform can be leveraged with learned techniques for effective claims handling of certain cases going forward.
Mediations are conducted to collectively reach case settlement amongst the parties in dispute, thus avoiding the cost and time commitment of prolonged litigation inherent with a bench or jury trial. In a pre-COVID world, mediations very rarely, if ever, were held in a virtual environment. Traditional legal processes for discovery, party depositions and case management practices have also changed in the virtual environment. Defense attorneys, the plaintiffs’ bar and judges have become more digitally and technologically adept. Lessons learned and the deployment of virtual tools and techniques now offer defense litigators and insurance companies a proven approach when considering how cases can be managed effectively.
Virtual mediations can facilitate claim resolution and achieve dispute resolution in a judicious and efficient manner. Engaging in the mediation process with remote technology platforms can reduce scheduling conflicts, travel time and expense and can increase employee productivity at the same time. Virtual discovery focus group analysis and mock trials can be also conducted virtually as part of the case management protocol for trial proceedings. Disputes that will likely benefit most from virtual mediation are claims with a limited number of decisionmakers. Throughout the COVID shutdown period, Chubb has been able to effectively resolve a significant amount of cases and achieve positive outcomes for insureds as the parties embraced the technology and were incentivized to reach timely settlement.
Virtual mediations have now become an essential aspect of claims handling. The approach has been proven to be more cost effective, streamlines the process and results in productive outcomes for reaching claims resolution in certain cases. Complex, high value claims involving multiple parties will, in some scenarios, continue to be settled more efficaciously through in-person interaction which may be needed to address intricate dispute issues, and multi-party liability. Case management may gradually transition back to an in-person environment However, given the prevalence of virtual mediation that has taken hold in the legal community, the claims professional and defense bar now have an alternative strategic approach to reach advantageous settlement on behalf of the insured.
Russell Smith is Senior Vice President, North America Casualty Claims Leader. To learn more about the Chubb Claims Difference, click here.
The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.