DOOR INJURY CASES
Pertaining to the Insurance Carrier
By Michael Panish, Door Expert Witness
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One of the most common types of expert related calls that I receive pertains
to some sort of door injury. Door injuries caused by automatic pedestrian
doors, manual doors, or garage doors often lead to serious and potentially
life threatening high dollar liability and personal injury lawsuits. My
case load as a door expert witness is evenly split between plaintiff and
defense. I have written articles, testified, and been consultant on many
door injury cases throughout the country and abroad. In addition, my services
have been utilized by defense teams representing cross defendants such
as door maintenance companies also named in the chain of commerce.
It has been my experience that the majority of door related injuries occur
at a commercial or retail location. The analysis of this type of case
is often convoluted and circuitous. Negligence on the part of the management
or owner of a commercial or retail business location can be the cause
of this type of claim. Due to the fact that there may be numerous involved
parties who have worked on the doors in the past, defense attorneys usually
name every company that ever furnished services to the subject doors as
cross defendants. Conversely, when an injury occurs at a residential property
it is often much easier to establish any direct cause and liability as
there are normally fewer involved parties. There are always exceptions
to the above scenario, and I have been involved with defense of claims
that have proven positive for the defense side regardless of how the responsibility
is attributed or allocated. Commercial and retail claims require far more
investigation than a simple residential liability claim.
As insurance companies work regionally, they often use the services of
a local attorney or law firm that may not have had previous experience
or understanding regarding door injury claims. It is important that the
insurance company participates in the management of the case on an ongoing basis.
One of the most important elements of any new door case is to thoroughly
understand all aspects of that case. This is where the services of an
exceptional specialty door expert should be enlisted.
Once an attorney or law firm is put in place by the insurance provider
to tender defense, it has been my observation that the insurance company
is not always having its best interests represented by the selected law
firm. Some law firms see these claims as an opportunity to create and
maintain an ongoing monthly billable statement. I am currently involved
in one door injury claim, representing the plaintiff. As settlement talks
have begun, this defense attorney has added endless and meaningless deposition
demands, instead of advising the insurance company that their insured
is responsible for the injury. These demands have created high costs associated
with travel and time expenditures forced upon the plaintiff’s attorney.
All the while, the defense attorney is generating large bills that his
firm will profit from, ultimately costing the insurance company for ludicrous
and unnecessary work. These last minute depositions and actions are not
leading to the discovery of some hidden aspect of the case, and are creating
an even more hostile plaintiff. As most plaintiffs’ attorneys are
working on these cases on a contingency basis, the end result is the need
for a higher settlement. In addition to more animosity toward the defense
attorney, and a higher payout on the part of the insurance company if
and when a final settlement is reached, this defense attorney seems to
be all about creating billable hours for himself, just before settling.
As a result of tactics as described above, the plaintiff's attorneys
tend to create more petitions to the court to attempt to limit this needless
discovery, creating more court time which then translates into higher
billing potential for the defense attorney. In some situations the defense
attorney hired by the insurance company can be the genesis of significant
additional costs that become self-perpetuating during the process of defense
and/ or settlement.
In direct contrast to the scenario described above, when an attorney has
a contractual limit with an insurance company, or is part of the in-house
counsel for the insurance provider, I have experienced a much more deliberate
willingness to reach some suitable resolution to a defense case.
How an insurance company can assist in the defense of their insured
Insurance companies should take advantage of the resources that an exceptional
door expert witness possesses. To quote an attorney in a recent case:
"If you are concerned about the cost (of an expert), you may have
- Get the best expert involved at the beginning stages of the claim to thoroughly
analyze your obligation and potential exposure
- Don't hire an expert based on the lowest hourly rate or smallest retention deposit
- Thoroughly evaluate your experts' credentials and past experience with
that particular type of case
There are now many so called "experts" that have popped up in
the last couple of years due to lack of work in their former fields. In
the case of construction and door related services, there are only a couple
of experts that have the track record, court experience and knowledge
necessary to properly evaluate, educate you, and work your case. Use the
professional experience of the expert to help mitigate the claim and/or
work as part of your defense team if it is found that you have a defendable
position to the claim.
I recently heard from an attorney defending a serious new door injury case,
who wanted to retain my services quickly. When he submitted my retention
agreement to the insurance provider the response was that the case was
too new and the direction hadn't been decided yet. This lack of early
involvement with a good expert can be a big mistake when it comes to these
types of door injury claims. Have a direct relationship with your expert
of choice, and keep in communication with that expert during the various
phases of the claim. Sometimes tendering a settlement early is good business.
Other times a claim needs to be defended. Depending on the situation surrounding
the claim, it is critical that your expert be a direct part of your defense
from the beginning. Knowledge is the key to prudence!
Mike Panish is a forensic expert witness and consultant in the construction
industry. One of his primary areas of expertise pertains to doors, locks,
door closers and
automatic door cases He has over 35 years of hands-on experience dealing with commercial, retail,
multi residential, hotel, hospital, lab and other locations where specialty
door systems are needed. He has written several
articles on the subject of door related claims (injury and defects), and maintenance issues related to door and automatic
door systems. He is licensed as a door and hardware contractor in the
State of California. He has been involved in many door cases across the
United States and Internationally. He has been used as a consultant and
has been retained and designated as expert in many types of door injury
related claims for both the plaintiff and defense. Mike is able to quickly
ascertain the facts, explain the critical information pertaining to your
case and can assist you in developing your case from discovery through
trial. He has offices in California, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
He is available for nationwide, inspection, consulting, expert analysis,
Michael Panish can be reached at (888) 902-4272 (Sharon).
www.ConstructionWitness.com for more information.