Work-related stress may cause workers comp claims.

Claim Scenario: Workers Comp. Benefits Awarded for Stress

In a recent ruling, an employee was awarded workers comp benefits for stress. We want to share claim scenario details and court rulings as it could affect your law firm’s insurance.  The following is a recently issued ruling on work comp. A policy that awarded benefits to a paralegal for health problems related to stress:

A second-grade teacher should receive limited workers compensation benefits for health problems she says she suffered while working in a stressful classroom, a Pennsylvania court has ruled.

Shirley Hilton worked for the Philadelphia law firm from November 2018 to March 2019. On her last day at the firm, she suffered heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness, and nausea “as a result of a tough day with her challenging work environment,” according to the ruling.

Ms. Hilton went that afternoon to a regularly scheduled appointment with a doctor who had treated her for some time. The doctor’s office called Ms. Hilton’s firm that day and told the partners that she would not be returning to work because of the firm’s “overly stressful environment,” court records show.

A doctor appointed by the law firm treated Ms. Hilton and “made her return” to her regular job in May 2019. Still, she worked only four days upon her return and was not paid beyond the firm’s March date.

In June 2019, the law firm reassigned Ms. Hilton to another position, which she characterized as being quiet with “excellent work… going on,” records show. However, Ms. Hilton did not begin work that September because she said she was still undergoing treatment for the job-related stress she suffered at her previous position.

Ms. Hilton filed a workers comp claim for work injuries she suffered in March 2019, including vocal cord injury, aggravation of pre-existing lupus, heart murmur, and court records show.

A workers comp judge granted Ms. Hilton’s petition after finding her testimony was credible in describing “serious behavioral problems” at the law firm that caused her injuries, records show.

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the benefit award, and the Philadelphia law firm appealed.

A three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed Ms. Hilton’s benefit award on Tuesday. Still, it reversed a portion of the appeals board decision that would have allowed her to receive ongoing benefits.

The appellate court found that testimony from Ms. Hilton’s physician credibly established that she suffered injuries from working at a law firm, including exacerbating her pre-existing lupus in March 2019.

However, the doctor testified that Ms. Hilton was not disabled from working as a paralegal “as long as she did not work somewhere like her former frim,” records show. Therefore, the appellate court granted benefits to Ms. Hilton only from March 2019 to September 2019, when she could have begun working at the less stressful firm or position.

Employee forging a business document.

What is employee dishonesty insurance coverage?

Employee dishonesty insurance can be one of the most important coverages firms can purchase. Why? Fraud and embezzlement instigated by employees are on the rise in the small business workplace. According, Small businesses are especially vulnerable, especially those who cannot absorb large losses or cannot afford extensive precautions and safeguards.

Employee dishonesty insurance coverage sometimes referred to as fidelity bond, crime coverage, or crime fidelity insurance, is a type of business insurance that protects a small business employer from a financial loss due to fraudulent acts conducted by an employee group. The financial loss can be caused by an employee’s theft of property, money, or securities owned by a small business.

Coverage

Stand-alone employee dishonesty  coverage policies are designed to cover forgery, alteration, unauthorized electronic funds transfers, credit card fraud, computer fraud, money order fraud, and counterfeit fraud. These business insurance crime coverage policies not only protect the small business owner, but employees defined in the policy, such as current or former employees, trustees, members, partners, directors, temporary employees, and seasonal employees, may also be protected.

Endorsements

Endorsements can also be added to employee dishonesty insurance coverage policies. For example, a third-party endorsement can be added, extending coverage to a client that you’re performing services for under a written contract. Under this endorsement, the policy will compensate for damage or loss to the property, money, or securities leased or owned by a client due to theft by your employee. Basically, this third-party endorsement modifies the employee dishonesty policy to include client premises coverage. An endorsement can also be added to cover an Employee Retirement Income Security (ERISA) bond.

Exclusions

Some typical exclusions in an employee dishonesty insurance policy include math errors or omissions, accounting errors and omissions, vandalism, government seizure or destruction of business property, profit and loss restatement, theft by the policyholder, and loss of income that would have been realized without damage or loss to property, money, or security.

Attorney writing a contract.

What is valuable papers and records coverage?

Many law firms don’t realize that valuable papers and records coverage may be vital to your firm’s business operations. You may be relying less and less on hard copies of your valuable papers and records and transitioning to electronic filing instead. Even so, your hard copies still need to be protected in case you experience a catastrophic loss, like a fire or a natural disaster.

Although you may have some existing coverage for valuable papers with a personal property form or standard business owners policy, this coverage is fairly limited and may not be adequate to meet your needs.

This is where valuable papers and records coverage can help you rebuild your business after a loss. To put it into perspective, analyze your business needs, and see what it would cost to replace your records:

  • Would you need to hire temporary employees to help replace the papers?
  • How many hours of work would it take to replace the papers?
  • Would you need to obtain original versions?
  • Would you need to recreate original work, like home inspections, surveys, or maps?

If you consider the actual costs, you may realize you need more coverage than you currently have.

What is Considered a Valuable Paper?

Valuable papers are documents that are critical to your business and do not have duplicates. A policy may say it covers “written or printed documents, manuscripts and records,” which could include invoices, client lists, contracts, loan documents, and medical or employee records.

Valuable papers generally do not include money, data records, securities, and records stored electronically, so ensure you have additional coverage for those things.

Valuable Papers Coverage

The preferred method to insure valuable papers is to purchase valuable papers coverage and, if the value of your accounts receivable justifies it, purchasing accounts receivable insurance. If your business handles most accounts receivable payments electronically, accounts receivable insurance would not be necessary for you to consider.

Valuable papers insurance offers two types of coverage:

  1. A blanket limit of insurance is offered for valuable papers and records that can be replaced. The limit should be high enough to cover the research cost and replacement of the papers after sustaining the worst possible loss.
  2. Individual amounts of insurance are provided for items that cannot be replaced, like one-of-a-kind historical documents or first edition books. The amount of insurance provided reflects the appraised value of the item. Each item should be reappraised every two or three years to keep up with inflation and market conditions, and the insurance amounts should be adjusted accordingly.

Program of Records Protection

Establish a program of records protection at your business to ensure the safety of your valuable records. Analyze your exposure to potential losses like flood, fire, or theft, and protect your records accordingly.

This could mean storing all important records in fire- and theft-proof locked files when not in use or your business is closed. Return the records to storage promptly after you use them.

Give special protection to rare or irreplaceable books and documents. They may need protection from light, humidity, or insects.

You can also store copies of valuable papers in a second location and transfer them frequently. Be sure the second location is far enough away from your primary location to avoid the same loss or risk.

Law firms need umbrella liability insurance.

Umbrella Liability Insurance – 5 Things to Know

An umbrella liability policy provides an insured with an “umbrella” of liability protection over the primary liability insurance. Most umbrella insurers require you to purchase primary insurance coverage before selling you an umbrella policy, such as general liability insurance, auto liability insurance, workers compensation, or employer liability insurance.

Your umbrella policy can provide coverage:

  • over the primary liability insurance carried by the insured if the primary insurance is exhausted by a loss;
  • of liability exposures for which there is no primary insurance; or
  • when the primary policy contains an exclusion that is not similarly excluded under the umbrella policy.

1. Individual judgment and individual risk Umbrella liability insurance policies are largely a matter of the insurer’s judgment, and rating is almost entirely a matter of individual judgment, not only from insurer to insurer but also from individual risk. Many of the umbrella provisions are negotiable with most underwriters.

2. Underlying coverage A requirement for underlying liability limits of $1 million is common. For insureds with severe advertising or another personal injury, or other special liability exposures, underlying coverage with high limits in these areas may also be required if these exposures are included in the umbrella coverage. Umbrella policy conditions usually call for maintenance of the underlying coverage, with the umbrella insurer’s part in a loss being determined as if the underlying contract were in force, even if it’s not. The only exception is when an underlying policy is totally exhausted by payment of the loss, in which case, the umbrella policy “drops down” to replace the exhausted underlying protection. Drop-down coverage also may become effective when the primary insurer is insolvent.

3. Defense coverage A significant variation in policies has to do with defense coverage; almost all umbrella liability contracts have provisions that, in effect, protect the right of the umbrella insurer to take over or participate in defense of a claim that may involve it. These policies include defense coverage for uninsured exposures, the authors say, even when the loss doesn’t appear likely to involve the umbrella contract. Also, some contracts include defense coverage of losses when, because the underlying insurance is exhausted by the loss payment, the umbrella policy comes in as primary coverage. Some policies include defense and appeal costs within the coverage limits, while others provide them as supplementary payments outside the coverage limits.

4. Additional insured Any additional insured under any policy of underlying insurance is automatically an insured under the umbrella policy. But the coverage isn’t any broader than the coverage provided by the underlying insurance. If the underlying insurer or the insured elects not to appeal a judgment over the retained limit, the umbrella insurer reserves the right to do so at its own expense. The umbrella insurer also pays for taxable court costs, pre-and post-judgment interest, and disbursements associated with the appeal.

5. Indemnity policy or pay-on-behalf-of policy Indemnity policies don’t require the insurer to make payment to the insured until the insured has first made payment for covered damages or expenses. The language requires you to use your own money to pay for damages and defense and then seek reimbursement. With a pay-on-behalf-of policy, the insurer promises to pay damages on behalf of the insured. This means that the insured doesn’t have first to make payment and then seek reimbursement from the insurer. The insurer normally pays expenses for defense as they are incurred if the umbrella insurer has taken over the defense role, even with a pay-on-behalf-of policy.

6. Common exclusions The Commercial Liability Umbrella Form excludes certain coverages that apply to specific situations. The following are only a few of the exclusions provided in the form. For more information, refer to the form itself and the detailed analysis provided by the authors.

  • Liquor liability
  • Workers compensation, employers liability, and employment-related practices
  • Pollution
  • Aircraft or watercraft, and racing activities
  • Recall of products, work, or impaired property
  • Electronic data

Cyber security is vital for law firms.

Cyber Security Tips for Law Firms

Cyber security is becoming increasingly important as more and more businesses are attacked every day. Law firms aren’t immune so it’s important to protect your practice with insurance and proper company policies.

Broadband and information technology are powerful tools for small businesses to reach new markets and increase sales and productivity. However, cybersecurity threats are real, and businesses must implement the best tools and tactics to protect themselves, their customers, and their data. Here are ten key cybersecurity tips to protect your law firm:

1. Train employees in security principles. Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurity policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.

2. Protect information, computers, and networks from cyber-attacks. Keep clean machines: having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Set antivirus software to run a scan after each update. Install other key software updates as soon as they are available.

3. Provide firewall security for your Internet connection. A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the operating system’s firewall is enabled, or install free firewall software available online. If employees work from home, ensure that a firewall protects their home system(s).

4. Create a mobile device action plan. Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or access the corporate network. Require users to password-protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

5. Make backup copies of important business data and information—regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly, and store the copies either offsite or in the cloud.

6. Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each employee. Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be straightforward targets for theft or lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

7. Secure your Wi-Fi networks. If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted, and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router, so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

8. Employ best practices on payment cards. Work with banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations under agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and don’t use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

9. Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority to install the software. Do not provide anyone employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems they need for their jobs and should not install any software without permission.

10. Passwords and authentication. Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every three months. Consider implementing multifactor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multifactor authentication for your account.

EDP Insurance Coverage protects law firms

What is EDP insurance coverage?

So many law firms are computer-dependent, and EDP insurance coverage is a necessity. Rather than insuring the computers as pieces of office or manufacturing equipment, the Electronic Data Processing (EDP) form responds to the need to protect hardware, software, media, and other exposures unique to this equipment. Coverage is available for hacking (unauthorized computer system access), virus damage, power shortages, overload, and outages.

There isn’t a standard form for providing Electronic Data Processing or Computer coverage. Because many insurers offer so many different forms, businesses seeking coverage must take extra care to understand what is covered.

Any commercial operation that owns and/or uses computers and other data processing equipment is eligible for EDP insurance coverage. Commonly a policy covers hardware, media, programs/applications, data records, proprietary programs, loss of income, and (on- or off-site) Website servers.

How the EDP insurance coverage applies depends upon the policy definitions of key terms, including “computer hacking,” “computer virus,” “data records,” “media,” “telecommunications equipment,” and others. EDP policies have many defined terms because technology is dynamic. Liberal use of specific policy language helps to preserve an EDP policy’s intended coverage.

Typically, coverage is provided against a specific list of events that can cause a tangible loss to electronic equipment. Different coverage applies to major areas of EDP, such as hardware, software, and Website servers. Covered businesses usually must comply with certain provisions to qualify for coverage, such as properly creating and storing backup programs.

There are certain types of property that, generally, are ineligible for coverage under an EDP policy, such as:

  • Hardcopy accounts, bills, evidence of debt, records, abstracts, deeds, manuscripts, program documentation, and similar property
  • Portable computers that are stolen or that disappear.
  • Any property used for illegal transportation or that is contraband.
  • Any property that is leased or rented to others
  • Currency, food stamps, lottery tickets, money, notes, and securities
  • Property held for sale.

One area that a business must pay attention to is how losses are settled. Are claims handled according to the lost equipment’s current value (Actual Cash Value – ACV) or according to what is necessary to replace the property? Settlement based on ACV can be a problem for companies that don’t regularly upgrade their EDP equipment. Technology changes so fast that payment for equipment purchased years ago is far less than needed to secure new equipment. On the other hand, replacement cost coverage would not be as critical for a firm that regularly changes equipment as damaged property would likely be newer.

Insurance defense costs impact claim payouts.

Insurance Defense Costs

It’s important to understand how the defense costs work on your insurance policy because it can dramatically impact how claims are paid.

Did you know that a liability policy, part of any typical business insurance policy or commercial insurance coverage, has two distinct obligations? If it is general liability, product liability, or professional liability insurance policy, a liability insurance policy is designed to protect you against your legal obligation to pay others because you have hurt them and/or have damaged their property.

The policy also defends you against claims or lawsuits. In addition to paying claims, the policies will also pay for the associated defense costs and court fees until proven you are not negligent or the applicable policy is not responsible.

What Is Covered Under an Insurance Policy Defense Costs?

Defense costs generally include:

  • Attorney fees (including the cost of legal staff and expenses)
  • Court costs of the applicable jurisdiction
  • Costs of filing necessary legal papers
  • If applicable, the costs of expert witnesses.
  • Costs associated with investigation, etc.

How Are Defense Costs Handled?

Defense Coverage can be offered in two ways. It can be provided as part of the insurance policy’s liability limit or as a separate coverage.  You must read your policy carefully because the method has a huge impact on your insurance protection. Let’s say that Policy A and Policy B both provide liability insurance limits of $1,000,000;

Policy A provides defense coverage within the insurance limits

Policy B provides defense coverage outside of the insurance limits

Now let’s see what can happen:

Example: a client sues ABC law firm. The client slipped on a wet floor inside the office, sustaining back and wrist injuries.  The damages (medical and rehab costs) totaled $850,000, and the defense costs were $400,000. Here’s how each policy would handle the costs:

Expense Policy A Policy B
Defense Cost $400,000 $400,000
Damages $850,000 $850,000
Total Damages $1,250,000 $1,250,000
Total Paid $1,000,000 $1,250,000
  Client Obligation   $250,000  $0

If ABC Law Firms’ protection worked like Policy A, ABC would be responsible for paying the remainder of the damages because the defense costs worked towards exhausting their $1,000,000 insurance limit. Policy B’s method of providing coverage outside of the insurance limit offers the most protection. If you’re not sure how your policy handles your legal defense’s cost, you can give our office a call to find out more.

General Liability Supplemental Payments

Supplemental payments for insurance policies.

Most liability insurance policies have clauses dealing with supplemental payments: the standard business auto policy, personal auto policy, and general liability policy all contain supplemental payments sections.

The first provision in the supplemental payments clauses states that the insurer will pay the expenses it incurs. This seems reasonable since the insurer has the duty to defend the insured against covered liability claims and takes upon itself the right to settle any claim or lawsuit filed against the insured. This duty and right obviously involve expenses, and in exercising that duty and right, the insurer should be responsible for the payment of those expenses.

This “paying the expenses” provision is normal in liability policies, but the wording may cause some questions to arise. For example, the general liability policy states that the insurer will pay the expenses it incurs in any lawsuit it defends; the business auto policy does not clarify this point, simply stating that the insurer will pay the expenses “for the insured.”

What supplementary costs are covered?

This begs the question: what about the investigative expenses or the expenses paid in settling a claim before any lawsuit? Since the auto policies do not limit the extent of the insurer’s expenses, it can be presumed that any investigative or pre-lawsuit settlement expenses are covered.

The general liability policy does include investigative and settlement expenses in its preamble to the “paying the expenses” provision, while other policies are less clear on this fact.

Other supplemental payment provisions deal with bonds.

The general liability policy states that the insurer will pay up to $250 for the cost of bail bonds required because of an accident, while the business auto policy will pay up to $2,000. The policies will also pay the cost of bonds to release attachments wherein the bond is used to dissolve an attachment of property, that is, the legal act or process of acquiring a lien upon property for any judgment satisfaction. The insurer does not have to apply for or furnish the bail bonds or the release bonds.

Note that the various policies’ bond provisions do not mention the cost of premiums on appeal bonds required in any lawsuit defended by the insurer. This absence of a provision about appeal bonds begs the question: does the insurer have to appeal a decision against its insured? If there are reasonable grounds for an appeal, the insurer has the duty to pursue an appeal.

The supplementary payments provisions also offer to pay all reasonable expenses incurred by the insured if and when the insurer requests the insured to assist in the investigation or defense of the claim or lawsuit.  This includes actual loss of earnings by the insured up to $250 a day because of time off work.  Since the insured is required by the policy conditions to cooperate with the insurer in the investigation, settlement, or defense of any claim or lawsuit, it is very appropriate for the insurer to pay the insured’s reasonable expenses in such cooperation. This raises the question: What is a “reasonable expense”? And is $250 a day for time off work an acceptable sum?

Not all court costs are covered.

Court costs taxed against the insured are another item included in the supplementary payments. The current commercial general liability (CGL) form and the current business auto policy (BAP) note that these costs do not include attorneys’ fees or expenses taxed against the insured. This means that the attorneys’ fees and expenses of opposing counsel that may be taxed against the insured are not covered as supplementary payments. By excluding opposing attorneys’ fees and expenses as supplementary payments, these fees and expenses can be viewed as damages the insured is obligated to pay because of the bodily injury or property damage claims. The fees and expenses are then paid out of the policy limits of insurance.

Judgment liability

Interest on the full amount of any judgment against the insured that accrues after entry of the judgment is part of the supplementary payments section of all the liability policies. Normally, after a judgment is rendered against the insured, the court will allow interest to accrue on the amount due until the judgment is satisfied. Since the insurer may appeal the judgment, it only fits that the insurer also pays for any interest that accrues on the judgment amount while the appeal process proceeds. Note, however, that the policies do limit this interest payment in certain ways.

The CGL form also has this limitation on interest payments after the entry of any judgment. Still, it does offer a supplementary payment that the other liability policies do not address. The CGL form offers to pay prejudgment interest awarded against the insured. If the insurer makes an offer to pay the applicable limit of insurance, the insurer will not pay any prejudgment interest based on that period of time after the offer is made.

The final point to mention about supplementary payments (and the most rewarding from the insured’s standpoint) is that the payments do not reduce the limit of liability. The supplementary payments are in addition to the policy’s limits of liability.

As noted, the supplementary payments clauses are an integral part of the liability policy, and as part of the insurance contract, both insureds and insurers need to recognize their importance.

Avoiding Malpractice Claims through Time Management

Missed deadlines and time management-related errors are the second biggest cause of malpractice claims at all firms’ sizes.  Over the last decade, they have represented over 17 percent of all malpractice claims.

The most common time-related error is a failure to know or ascertain a deadline – missing a limitation period because you didn’t know it. The good news is that this specific error has declined by almost 50 percent over the last ten years. The bad news is that the other time and deadline-related errors are holding stable or increasing slightly.

While in the longer term, we expect that the new Limitations Act will result in fewer limitations period claims, at this stage, it does not appear to have had any impact. Indeed, it may have resulted in more claims over the last year due to confusion over transition provisions.

A calendar failure is the second most common time-related error (a limitation period was known, but it was not properly entered in a calendar or tickler system). The fourth most common time-related error is the failure to react to calendar error. In this case, the limitation period was known and entered into a tickler system but was missed due to a failure to use or respond to the tickler reminder.

Lawyers at firms of all sizes seem to have a dusty file or two that sits on the corner of their desks for far too long, and this makes procrastination-related errors the third most common time-related error. By count and costs, procrastination-related errors are on an upwards trend.

These deadline and time management errors are easily preventable with better time management skills and the proper use of tickler systems. Practice management software programs such as Amicus Attorney and Time Matters are excellent tools for helping lawyers manage deadlines and tasks and better manage client communications and relationships.

Settle and Sue Trend

A recent trend within the legal industry is the “settle and sue” lawsuit.   A plaintiff in this type of legal-malpractice action is unhappy with settling a prior lawsuit even after the plaintiff voluntarily agreed to settle the case. In classic buyer’s remorse mode, disgruntled clients regret deciding to settle and focus their litigation crosshairs on their former attorney who advised the “negligent” settlement.  In this case, the blame for that mistake is projected toward the former attorney.

An attorney may not be able to absolutely insulate himself or herself from a lawsuit raised by a former client post-settlement. Still, there are tips that one may follow to allow a more favorable opportunity to defend such a claim. Here are some suggestions:

Establish parameters early in the representation. Use an engagement letter to the client to underscore that your objectives are not necessarily to obtain the highest monetary settlement/verdict or to defend the case so that the least amount of money is paid. Rather, the goal of resolving the case is to reach a settlement that the client can understand and accept, given the strengths and weaknesses of the case. In short, don’t promise the moon. Merely promise that you will provide the best recommendations you can.

Get client input. Communicate with your client regularly regarding what his or her expectations of the case are and document his or her potentially evolving impression of the case in writing. Clients change their attitudes and goals frequently. Therefore, an attorney would be prudent to elicit regular input from his or her client to ensure that there is no miscommunication about what constitutes a “fair” settlement.

Fully explain the release. Clients frequently will assert that they could not understand the legalese of litigation and that no one attempted to explain the legal intricacies. Avoid that issue by showing your client a copy of a standard release early in the process and invite a discussion about the ramifications of signing such a release (for example, it may mean there is no admission of liability and one party is releasing all other potential claims). Again, document that this consultation took place.

Describe the mediation process in writing. If a case mediates, ensure that the client understands what the mediation process entails. This will require putting in writing (a) the qualifications and justification for the selection of the mediator, (b) the strengths and weaknesses of the case, (c) the possible settlement range and verdict range of the case, and (d) an acknowledgment that settlement could bypass a better result at trial. Reiterate that the parties are not obligated to settle just because a mediation has been scheduled and paid for by the parties. Rather, the client must be told in writing that they should ask questions if they do not understand any part of the process and should never feel forced to settle.

Alert the client to post-settlement responsibilities. The client must be aware of how any potential liens will affect the collectability of settlement, the time frame for payment, and how the attorney fees may be paid from that settlement. The case is not over the moment an agreement to settle is reached, and the client must be kept apprised of what will be done to bring a final resolution to the case.

A purchaser stricken with buyer’s remorse is consumed by the type of regret evidenced by plaintiffs in “settle and sue” lawsuits. Most jurisdictions agree that settlement of an underlying action does not automatically bar malpractice claims. Regardless of a plaintiff’s motive, the defendant-attorney must understand the law of his or her jurisdiction regarding these types of cases and must take comprehensive steps during the underlying litigation to ensure that there are ample grounds to defend the claim if one arises. The execution of a settlement agreement is usually the final chapter of litigation. At other times, it serves as a prologue for the “settle and sue” lawsuit.