Longevity Is Key When It Comes to Lawyer’s Professional Liability Claims

Retirement usually means not only leaving your job, but everything associated with that job. However, when a lawyer retires, this isn’t necessarily the case. Whether they are no longer practicing law, or starting an entirely new career, lawyers may find themselves haunted by liability claims arising from their past work.

For this reason, it’s important for departing lawyers to confirm that liability coverage will remain intact for past work. To accomplish this goal, you should review the partnership agreement, the firm’s professional liability insurance, and any recent claims. Keep in mind that partnership agreements and insurance coverage vary from firm to firm. When you review the agreement, you may find an absence of provisions for the firm’s ongoing indemnity or insurance obligations towards former members.

When reviewing the firm’s professional liability policy you’ll probably find that is written on a “claims made” basis. This means that coverage is provided for any claims made during the policy term, even if the events that precipitated the claim happened before the policy’s effective date. Even if your firm has a claims made policy, it can still have coverage gaps that significantly affect you once you decide to leave. For example, the insurer may have included provisions that limit or exclude coverage of the firm’s activities in certain practice areas. Or with claims made policies, if an exclusion is added in the future, it is applicable to all past and future work in that practice area.

Your policy review should also include an examination of its coverage limits. Since these limits cover all claims made and reported within the policy term, there may not be funds available to cover a retiring lawyer if the firm has already submitted a substantial number of claims or even just one large one.

The next step in your evaluation is a determination of how the policy defines “insured.” In some attorney-client relationships, a lawyer may be considered an employee or independent contractor. Under some policies, coverage for employees and independent contractors is either limited or non-existent.

You should also review the conditions regarding the firm’s responsibilities for policy renewal and reporting claims. Don’t assume that the firm will continue to operate as a going concern after you are gone, or that it will continue to renew its liability policy. In fact, in the case of smaller firms, dissolution is often the outcome after a key partner retires.

If the practice is dissolved, it is important that the firm and its former partners maintain insurance coverage. And since time is a crucial factor in a dissolution scenario when it comes to coverage, it is important that you meet as soon as possible with your insurance representative to discuss your coverage status and appropriate options.

Families Should Have an Emergency Communication Plan

Severe weather is one of the most common sources of natural disasters, and no region of the U.S. is off limits. Does your family know what they should do in the event a weather-related natural disaster strikes?

According to the Home Safety Council, fewer than 30 percent of U.S. families have created and discussed an emergency communication plan. One of the reasons that so few families have developed one is that many people believe it requires considerable time and effort.

Creating an emergency communication plan is actually easier than you may think. The first component that you should have is a corded land line phone in your home. It is the most reliable source of communication in an emergency because it will continue to operate even if the power goes out in the house.

The second component is an emergency communication card that each family member should carry at all times. The Home Safety Council recommends creating wallet-sized emergency communication cards that include space to list important phone numbers and medical information. Families should discuss how they would communicate during an emergency situation, and then record important plan information on their emergency cards.

In addition to a communication plan, the Home Safety Council offers the following recommendations:

  • Have a “Ready-to-Go-Kit” – In a duffel bag or backpack, place one gallon of water per person, non-perishable canned food, a can opener, paper plates and cups, plastic utensils, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-operated radio, a change of clothes for each family member, personal hygiene items, a small first-aid kit, and pet food and supplies. Keep the kit near any medications you would need to take with you in an emergency.
  • Have a “Ready-to-Stay Kit” – You may have to stay inside your home for an extended period of time, and this kit will help you survive. In a large plastic tub with a cover, or easily accessible cabinet designated for this purpose only, place three gallons of water per family member, enough non-perishable canned food and snacks for at least three days, a can opener, toilet paper, blankets, books and games to keep you busy, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-operated radio, a small first-aid kit, paper plates and cups, plastic utensils, a change of clothes for each family member, personal hygiene items, and pet food and supplies.
  • Designate a safe meeting place outside your home.
  • Designate a safe place to seek shelter in your home in case of severe weather. Your survival supplies should be stored in this location.
  • Teach young children how to use the phone to call for help.
  • Update wireless phones with “in case of emergency” (ICE) contact information.