Fact or Fiction

by Camille Stell

In our March “Ask The Risk Man” column, we included a question and answer stating that the name of the airplane in which Buddy Holly died was “American Pie.” According to an observant reader, this story is an urban legend.

See http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/americanpie.asp. While the reader pointed out my mistake with an electronic wink,  , he made a great point. It’s the simple things that trip us. We wouldn’t have written an article about a statute of limitations deadline without double-checking the rule, however, this simple story was written without any fact checking.

This example mirrors what our claims attorneys see. Many times, lawyers get into trouble not for failing to know the law, but letting the little things slip. The lawyer knows the statute of limitations deadline, but fails to put the date into her calendar system. She knows the client has called three times today, but keeps thinking she’ll return the call when she has better news for the client.

The obvious answer seems to be don’t make mistakes. If only it were that easy. How about a concept that might really be simple – a checklist? Can you take tasks that you perform and condense them into a checklist that would provide a quick safety review? For my newsletter, the checklist might look this:

  • Proof all articles for content and grammar.
  • Have another set of eyes proof articles.
  • Double-check cases or statutes cited.
  • Fact-check human interest or law office management articles.
  • Post articles to website and proof again.
  • Hit the send button to deliver e-newsletter to insureds.

What might your checklist look like? Here’s a sample checklist for filing and serving a complaint:

  • Check the statute of limitations and enter into docket system.
  • Check the elements for each cause of action.
  • Confirm names of parties bringing suit against.
  • Summons prepared, along with any local forms required.
  • Checks requested for filing and service fees.
  • File complaint and receive file-stamped copy from court for file and client.
  • Prepare complaint for service.
  • Proof of Service filed with court.
  • Calendar deadline to confirm service or issue A&P summons.
  • Monitor service of process.

We live with information overload and a checklist is a quick and simple way to confirm the necessary steps happen without having to rely on our memory. However, if you do find you’ve made a mistake; don’t hesitate to call our claims lawyers. They are a great resource for talking through potential problems, as well as assisting with claims repair. And before publishing your story, check out www.snopes.com to determine whether it’s fact or fiction.

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