William F. "Chip" Merlin, Jr., of the Merlin Law Group, wrote a blog in which he derided (a nice word) the blog I posted on August 18, entitled “Advances-Common Misconception.” Mr. Merlin is a Plaintiff’s/Policyholder’s Attorney. (www.merlinlawgroup.com). His website describes him as “The Policyholder’s Advocate.” His advocacy is evident as his comments concerning advances misunderstand the very points I was making, misconstrue the true nature of advances, evidence a misreading of the actual blog I posted. Check out his commentary at:
Chip missed the point, and also missed the reason the blog was posted. He asks:
Why do insurance company attorneys tell their insurance company clients that they can abuse their policyholders with legal immunity?
Did you see anywhere in the blog where I suggested advances should never be made? Of course not, as most who read it could tell. Even Brandon, my worthy usual adversary and co-author of this blog, has not “taken me to task,” as Chip purports to do. My point was to educate and prevent misconceptions from arising. Here are Chip’s two biggest mistakes – let’s call them continued “misconceptions” – although one wonders how someone with his experience could unintentionally misunderstand statements made in the blog:
1. He cited to some policies that do require advances. The exact wording of my blog posted August 18 states:
Generally speaking, most insurance policies do not require the insurance carrier to make an advance
That did NOT say that no policy exists which may not require an advance.
2. He then says we have an obligation to pay the undisputed portion of the claim – and I agree. But any knowledgeable reader knows that is not what an advance is – an advance is money paid before an investigation is complete. If it is complete, we know the undisputed portion. Based upon that analogy, he argues that payments could wait years, and violate applicable laws. Obviously, that is an incorrect assessment. If you start with a bad premise (i.e., the advance is the really the “undisputed portion”), you must reach a faulty conclusion, as Chip has done.
Anyway, thanks to Chip for pointing out exactly why we needed to clear up misconceptions. His blog demonstrates my point exactly, although I really had not thought that anyone would have these misconceptions.
And, let me add this, my blog notes that some carriers do make advances and some do not. It is not a condemnation of advances, but rather an attempt to clear up misconceptions to which some policyholder attorneys contribute. These misconceptions evidenced by Chip’s posting cause a problem, when the attorney for the policyholder convinces the insured that a company is treating them unfairly by not making advances. The insured often decides to become adversarial, to the benefit of the policy holders attorney, when it is often not necessary. If attorneys would be objective in their assessments as to policy obligations, much litigation could be avoided.
I enjoy the challenge of litigating with lawyers who know the rules, and understand the issues involved. When I deal with lawyers new to coverage litigation, I find that they have many of the same misconceptions I have set forth, and perhaps those that Chip has evidenced. In many cases, the companies I have represented have made advances, but the insured claimed they were not enough. The policyholder’s attorney usually writes a letter demanding an advance, copies to his client. That creates a perception it the mind of the policyholder that an advance is required, when it may not be. Things are never the same after that, as the policyholder is convinced the carrier has failed to do something required. In most cases, nothing could be further from the truth.