Subrogating for the Sake of Subrogating

In the business of conducting forensic investigations, subrogation, at times, is part of the work.  Most property insurance policies contain a clause which allows for the insurer to assume the rights of the insured if the insurer pays for damages caused by a third party.  In other words, if you are injured or your property is damaged by a product or another person, your insurance company has the right to recover what it paid you by subrogating, or suing, the manufacturer of the product or other party that caused your injury or property damage.  This is a fairly common practice among property insurance companies, and rightly so.  In terms of products, there is a lot of garbage out there and the companies that produce faulty products should be held responsible.  But, other the other hand, what about responsible companies that produce products by incorporating a formal design process?  Should they be held responsible?  The answer is, at the very least, they are definitely scrutinized. Sometimes, they are held responsible and unfairly so. And it’s not just manufacturers; it can be service companies or anyone that is perceived to have been connected to the incident, no matter how remotely.  Here’s the deal: insurance companies don’t want to “get left holding the empty money bag”, they want their money back.  Not all insurance companies are bent on treating everyone unfairly for the sake of recovering their expenses.  But, there are a few and those of us that provide a service to the insurance industry have had an experience or two with them.  The kind of experience that I am referring to is the kind where the company’s opinion becomes the expert’s opinion before any work is ever done.  This is clearly wrong.  Expert firms, regardless of the type, whether engineering, fire investigation, public adjusting, accounting, etc, are supposed to be independent and unbiased.  However, there are expert firms in existence that will say whatever the insurance company wants them to say in order to get the assignment, and more importantly, collect the fee.  In the 25 years that I have been practicing in engineering forensics, I have learned that if you maintain your integrity, those “questionable” insurers will rarely engage your services, if at all.  Second, when you encounter an expert representing a “questionable” insurer, scrutiny of the insurer’s allegations and their expert’s report will usually reveal that the allegations are not reasonable and not based on a solid foundation.  Those of us that care about truth and fairness don’t really have to worry about those others too much.  Their tactics take care of them and the rest of us know it.                

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