What Else Should I Be? All Apologies.
With credit to Messrs. John and Cobain, esteemed songwriters who appreciated the value of a heartfelt apology…the insurance industry is notable for its LACK of sincere remorse (in bad scenarios that could be mitigated by some level of apologetic behavior.) Simply put, the insurance industry – like many three year olds — has a hard time with “We’re sorry”.
And this perspective – on some level – makes sense. The issuance of an apology can (and DOES) oft-times appear as a de facto admission of guilt (legitimate or otherwise). This was evidenced recently in a trial in Ohio. One can be certain that the risk management departments in Ohio hospitals closely watched the outcome of this case and, as a preventive measure, probably counseled their physician staffs to tone down their bedside manner. Moreover, opponents of ‘the apology doctrine’ could point to this case as evidence of the ‘why’ apologies should NEVER be proffered lest they result in finger pointing after the fact.
This school of thought is further supported (and examined) in the post “Should Insurers Consider Apologies in Claims Handling?” (The answer — like most insurance matters governed by defense counsel and claims supervisors is — sigh — convoluted). But one clear-cut statement – emanating surprisingly from an insurance defense attorney…a species known for their obfuscatory skills — is “…[the insurance] industry never makes an apology” from Christopher Martin of Martin, Disiere, Jefferson + Wisdom.
But what about situations – of which there are many – where a simple “[We’re] sorry”…could go a long way towards repairing the damages done to the claimant (not even discussing financial damages)? An excellent example of this scenario would be the social media debacle that Progressive suffered due to their treatment of a claimant in a 2010 fatal car accident. In that case, the family of the deceased sued Progressive for uninsured motorists benefits. (And not taking sides in the matter…the issue is the way in which the resulting PR played out for Progressive and the reputational damage inflicted.) Moreover, Progressive never (really) just came out and said “[We’re] sorry”. Instead, the case appeared to be driven by the social media firestorm that followed it.
The ‘to apologize or not apologize’ answer seems to lie – like many answers, in fact – somewhere in the middle. The PROBLEM with ‘answers in the middle’…is that their proper application and usage…requires calm reflection and common sense. And those qualities are usually in short supply when it comes to ALL parties (claimants, attorneys, claims personnel) involved in the supercharged environment of insurance claims. The necessary calm reflection and prudence that would come with a genuine apology…is hard to come by when all of the parties in that triumvirate are looking to the person next to them and expecting the worst.
At Sabal, we are most definitely enthusiastic advocates of careful reflection and of finding solutions to commercial insurance issues. Sabal‘s extensive advisory capabilities can ably benefit you and your firm. Please check our website for more information on same and, if it’s simpler, you may also always call us at 800 716 9948 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank You for reading and feel free to share YOUR thoughts with us, as well.