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Which attorneys do I call?
4

Which attorneys do I call?

Which attorneys do I call?

(OP)
I did a hydrology study for a land development project a few years back. I was subbed to another engineering firm. Highly urbanized watershed, very flashy floods, which drains down into a ritzy part of town. Apparently an attorney who owns a home downstream of the project just got flooded out, and has decided to sue the developer, my client, and (possibly, not yet confirmed) me. But when I say downstream, I mean WAY downstream. Our project is only probably something like 2% of the total watershed to the creek behind his house, a watershed that is almost entirely high density office and retail in one of the most urbanized areas of Atlanta.

This guy has zero case, not only because the stormwater management system was designed correctly and abundantly conservatively, but because of the relative ratio of our project to the overall watershed. I'm not worried about that. I'm wondering at what point I call my insurance agent over an obvious fishing expedition.

He has stated his intent to sue the developer. My engineer client has relayed to me a cryptic text message after a meeting with the homeowner saying "we're all going to get sued." I feel as if I can easily slam dunk this whole thing into oblivion by working with the developer, and I presume (?) they're going to pay me for my time, because they're a known notable developer with deep pockets. But if I get named in the lawsuit, do I have to cease contact with the developer and call up my own lawyer, or call up my insurance agency? I don't want to be blindsided with the decision if he names me as a party in the lawsuit, and if the right thing to do is distance myself from the developer's lawyers then I can't very well trust them when they tell me not to, even though my ideal solution to this is to work directly with them to punt this guy.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

Call your insurance company immediately. They have staff attorneys who will hire more if necessary. It is not very different from auto insurance claims. It is a game, a legal game, where you do not know the rules. Facts are only one part of the game. The attorney will likely negotiate a settlement that will be less than the cost for the insurance company to take the case to trial.

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

Sometimes it is wiser to hire an out-of-town atty. I'd take my time in choosing one.

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

dont hire an attorney, let the insurance company do it, they should defend you.

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

Contact your insurance company. Have your own attorney. The developer's attorney is looking out for the developer's best interest not yours. If I were in your shoes I would not talk with anyone else concerning this until I had consulted with my own attorney.

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

No! Don't contact your insurance company until you are sure you are being dragged in by specifically being named. If you do it now, it goes into their little file that says "he might be a risk when we renew, so let's increase his premium" whether or not you are named.

If it is clear you will be named or if you get a notice of a claim, then contact them. They have the obligation to defend you. They will typically contact a local attorney who specializes or is experienced in professional liability defense. From there you will work with that attorney, not someone you hire separately.

Without regard to your true liability, you have exposure. Exposure costs money to defend, even if it has no merit. If you can clearly prove no liability and no negligence in practice, your attorney might try for a Motion for Summary Judgment, which if successful, gets you out of the game early. Difficult to get, but can be successful, depending on the presentation to the judge.

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

(OP)

Quote:

Don't contact your insurance company until you are sure you are being dragged in by specifically being named.

This was my exact thought, but I needed to suss out when the point of pivot was, from "help my client's lawyers on an hourly basis" to "sorry I have to get my own attorney now."

Sounds like the moment I'm named on paper is that time.

What are the general odds that the insurance company's lawyers will call the developer's lawyers and work out a concerted defense? That would be my preference, because this complaint is abject garbage.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

I just attended a professional liability insurance seminar today and our agent told us that if we even catch wind that we are going to be sued or believe that we may be sued to call them and they will have attorneys working on preventative measures to keep it from escalating for free. Makes sense from the standpoint that if they can nip it in the bud before it turns into anything, that is a significant savings for them. She explicitly stated that it would not affect premiums. I understand what Ron is saying so take it for what it's worth coming from an insurance agent.

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

Insurance defense attorneys bill insurance companies at negotiated, reduced rates. They are there to respond to a plaintiff's attorney, if and when the plaintiff takes some action. It is relatively rare that any pre-suit negotiation or mediation occurs, but it does happen.

The plaintiff's attorney wants to keep as many people in the game as possible if they have insurance. Letting you out without some level of litigation is not in their best interest.

The best outcome would be for the plaintiff to hire a competent expert to evaluate the claim. If he is worth a damn, he'll tell the plaintiff he does or doesn't have a reasonable claim and not waste resources on spurious claims to those who have no true liability. I was recently involved in a case where the plaintiff sued everyone involved with the project. They included the structural engineer. I was hired by the plaintiff to determine design and construction defects if they existed. I did so and told the attorney that the structural engineer did not violate his standard of care. They ultimately let him out of the case, but it took a bit of gnashing to get them to understand that it would likely be a fruitless chase.

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

Is your insurance directly from the insurance company, or did you go through a third party/broker? If it's direct from the insurance company, Ron is probably right. A broker may be a little different. I bought my policy from a broker, and they do have pre-suit negotiation as a standard feature of their service agreements. So if somebody threatens to sue me, I contact my broker and they have a budget to pay an attorney to negotiate. If, and only if, the suit is formally filed is it passed up the chain to the actual insurance company to send an attorney to court/negotiate a formal settlement.

Regardless of the insurance situation, I'd discuss the issue with my own attorney before doing anything else. And that includes posting any more here. You have a link to your website in your signature - anything you post here regarding the case will probably be found if it goes to court.

RE: Which attorneys do I call?

When and if the time comes where you are personally named in the lawsuit, the developer's attorney and your attorney can enter into what is called a "joint defense" agreement. You would basically be represented by your own lawyer, but he/she would work together with the developer's counsel. I was involved with a lawsuit and the first 2 years the lawyers just sent threatening letters to each other before the lawsuit was actually filed and we spent a lot of money for basically nothing. Be careful, lawsuits are like story books written backwards. Don't divulge any information voluntarily. If I were you I would not do or say anything until the case is filed in court and your are officially served papers.

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