Category Archives: Coverage

Attorney + CEO = Coverage Denied

Attorney? Check. CEO? Check. Coverage? Unlikely. Some attorneys wear multiple hats. We have other interests, other business ventures, other opportunities to make a buck. Attorneys are often exposed to other areas of business depending on the nature of their practice. Through their role as counsel, or through other opportunities, some attorneys become more directly involved in non-legal businesses. The more traditional route is to switch to in-house counsel, but sometimes attorneys will go so far as to start a new company. While both are commonplace and not inherently problematic, issues begin to arise when an attorney is both practicing law and working for a company. The blurring of the line between lawyer and business executive not only creates potential conflicts of interest, but may have coverage consequences.

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Malpractice for a Client’s Failure to Report

Although some law schools are notorious for offering elective courses like “space law” that are of limited practical use to most attorneys, there is still a set of core classes that are invariably recommended. Courses such as tax law and corporate law often fall into this group, as most lawyers will have to consider tax repercussions or the structure of a company at some point in their careers, regardless of their practice area. One big firm is now learning that despite the dearth of classes in insurance law, it is a subject that every attorney should become familiar with.

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What to Report and When?

Applying for malpractice insurance is a critically important process and a necessary risk management tool. Professionals must be sure to complete the applications completely and must take steps to include all pertinent information. In a recent decision, the Northern District of Illinois concluded that an attorney omitted material information in his application and denied coverage. The result could be devastating for the attorney.

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What are Professional Services and Why it Matters

Clearly, it is the specific terms of an insurance contract that dictate whether certain claims are covered or denied. In an interesting decision out of Illinois, the court faced the question: when is an attorney practicing law “in the service of another” and how does that impact coverage. This distinction was critical to whether a claim against an attorney would be covered by a commercial general liability (“CGL”) policy.

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Unfair Business Practices = Professional Liability?

What is a “professional liability” claim? Most definitions would include a claim involving a skilled professional – such as an attorney, accountant, doctor or broker – sued in her professional capacity, based upon allegations of negligence in the performance of professional services. The easiest example is a claim for legal malpractice: a client gets a negative or unexpected result, believes that this result is due to failings on the part of hired counsel, and subsequently brings a claim against his attorney for damages. Pretty cut and dry, right? Nope.

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No Concurrent Causation = No Coverage

The doctrine of concurrent causation can apply in many different insurance coverage scenarios. The doctrine provides that if two causes - one covered by an insurance policy and the other excluded by the policy - both contribute to a loss, then coverage should be afforded under the policy. The doctrine would seem to expand coverage in scenarios where a potential exclusion might otherwise preclude it. Seems simple, right? Not always. Take for example the following APL case where the court found the concurrent causation doctrine did not apply and coverage was denied.

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Coverage Denied for Attorney Mixing Legal and Business Advice

Lawyers wear many hats; the key is not to wear them all simultaneously. Many lawyers are well versed in areas outside of the law and can be a source of non-legal knowledge for clients. However, lawyers need to be mindful when their services extend beyond the traditional landscape of legal advice. Mixing business interests and legal advice can easily get you in hot water if the transaction goes awry. Take for example the case of Burk & Reedy, LLP v. Am. Guarantee & Liab. Ins. Co., in which a professional liability insurer denied coverage for an attorney that was involved in both the legal and business aspects of a transaction.

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Insurance Applications + Lies = Coverage Denied

Insurers are entitled to make decisions as to the professionals they will insure and the terms of the relationship. To that end, insurers expend considerable energy evaluating risks and assessing the likelihood of a potential claim. The scope of underwriting and the key metrics may vary from carrier to carrier but without exception each insurer relies upon some form of insurance application. Insurers are entitled to rely upon the representations of their applicants and, when faced with a misrepresentation in an insurance application, have the right to deny coverage. Accordingly, we’ve cited previous examples of applicants caught in a lie in their insurance applications. Don’t do it. Consider another recent example.

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Liability for Lack of Malpractice Insurance?

Friends of PL Matters know that maintaining malpractice insurance is a must, regardless of your profession. Clients count on professionals to get things done right. When things don’t go exactly as planned, clients get unhappy, lawsuits are filed, and malpractice insurance kicks in to protect the professional. But what if the professional lacks insurance? May the client maintain a cause of action for lack of insurance?

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Coverage Denied for Failing to Report

Obtaining malpractice insurance is an essential component of risk management for professionals. But, the obligations continue beyond the purchase. Like any contract, both sides are bound to comply with the contractual terms: the insurer and the insured. Accordingly, professionals must take the time to familiarize themselves with the scope of policy coverage and specific policy exclusions. Failure to fulfill the requirements of a policy provision could mean the loss of coverage and individual exposure.

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