Early Investigation is the Key to Successful Subrogation

Submitted by:  Royce Ray, JD, Certified Subrogation Recovery Professional

The single most important ingredient to uncovering subrogation is an early incident investigation. I cannot emphasize that enough. I have previously touched on the significance of conducting an early investigation, but it is so critical to identifying subrogation that it bears repeating.

What do I mean by “early?” Simply stated, now. Not in a few minutes. Not in a few hours. Not in a few days. Early means right now. No delays. Of course, there will be situations where summoning emergency medical care for an injured worker or taking steps to mitigate a hazardous situation to prevent further or additional injury will naturally take precedence over starting a subrogation investigation. But the minute that those types of issues under control, subrogation should be investigated.

Why delve into the possibility of subrogation so early? Several important reasons. First, witnesses disappear quickly. Witnesses who were working nearby disburse and, for whatever reason, are often never identified or located. Witnesses also frequently move, seek other employment and even die. Moreover, even if a witness is available for interview, their memory of the details surrounding an event can fade over time. Consequently, to get the best understanding of the facts all people with knowledge need to be immediately identified and interviewed.

The second reason for conducting an early investigation is to prevent important evidence from getting lost or discarded. An early investigation will identify any product, machinery or equipment that must be set aside and preserved. That is vital to successful subrogation because having no product almost always means that no product liability claim can be asserted.

Third, incident scenes rapidly change over time for a variety of reasons. Few things are more devastating to identifying subrogation as a spoiled or materially altered incident scene.

An early investigation will yield the best evidence and will maximize the chances of revealing a subrogation opportunity worth pursuit, which could result in substantial savings on an employer’s comp insurance premiums.

One way that AEU drives down claims costs for ALMA members is the money savings generated through subrogation.  Since 2003, AEU has saved ALMA members over 10 million dollars through subrogation recoveries and the reserve eliminations on claims with subrogation.

2010 ALMA Conference

The American Equity Underwriters, Inc. has just wrapped up another ALMA Conference.  Maybe it’s just me, but the Conference seems to get better every year.

The 2010 ALMA Conference was held at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, from July 8 through July 11.  This was the second year in a row for St. Thomas due to the very strongly favorable response from the 2009 attendees.

For those Blog readers unfamiliar with the ALMA Conference, it is an annual event organized for key brokers, ALMA members, and invitees.  It consists of informative industry sessions offering expert presentations and commentary on issues important to the maritime industry, along with social activities, free time, and dinners providing fun, networking, and reunions with friends.  Okay.  I’ll admit it.  It’s more fun than anything else.

There were two keynote addresses at this year’s ALMA Conference. 

Dick Marler, President and CEO of Signal International, presented, “Executive Role in Safety:  Effective Practices & Procedures”.  Based on Mr. Marler’s safety record, he knows what he’s talking about.

Dr. Richard Bunch presented, “The Enemy in the Mirror – A Motivational Injury Prevention and Wellness”.  I think that we all learned some astonishing things about the human body.  Dr. Bunch was so entertaining that it took many attendees a while to appreciate how much they were learning.

The Conference also offered breakout sessions devoted to Claims, Safety, and Brokers.  These sessions were conducted by panels of AEU experts.  The Broker session involved an in depth discussion of the insurance implications of the massive cleanup efforts underway following the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster.  It also involved a discussion of the implications of offshore wind farm developments.

The AEU Safety Awards were presented by Mike Lapeyrouse, President and CEO of The American Equity Underwriters, Inc. and Jimmy Burgin, Senior Vice President and Director of Loss Control, AEU.  Congratulations to the winners:

2009 Safety Award Winners


Large Shipyard

Austal USA, LLC 

Keppel AmFELS

Signal International, LLC 

Medium Shipyard

U.S. Coatings, Inc.

Small Shipyard

Merritt Boat & Engine Works

Superior Derrick Services, Inc.

Marine Cargo Handling

Large Marine Cargo Handling

Wallenius Wilhelmsen

Medium Marine Cargo Handling

ICS Holdco, LLC

Small Marine Cargo Handling

Hyde Shipping Corporation

Finally, Mike Adams, Chief Financial Officer for AEU, presented the State of ALMA.  

After the business meetings there was plenty of time for fun of the tropical Caribbean paradise variety, including great food and entertainment.  Throw in the flawless professional handling by AEU’s staff, and you have an enjoyable experience from start to finish.  Possibly the best ALMA Conference yet!