Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Top California Insurance Lawyers - How to Find a Good Insurance Lawyer

It can be difficult to select an insurance lawyer when you need help dealing with an insurance company.  You want lawyers who are not only experienced and ethical, but also lawyers who will work hard for you and are at the top of their profession.  We at the law firm of Viau & Kwasniewski know that when you are selecting an insurance lawyer to represent your interests against an insurance company you want the right lawyers who are best for you.

We were humbled and pleased that we were the only small law firm to be selected by the Los Angeles/San Francisco Daily Journal, the largest legal publication in California, as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in California in 2013.  We were selected because of the work we did in achieving a unanimous decision at the California Supreme Court for insureds against the entire insurance industry.  Gary Kwasniewski was selected because of the work that he and his partner Jeanette Viau did together.  We were nominated by the reporter who followed our case and who was present during the oral Argument before the California Supreme Court.

Gary likes to say that Jeanette Viau should have received the recognition because she wrote all of the winning briefs at the Appellate level and at the California Supreme Court.  The way we look at it at Viau & Kwasniewski is that the recognition was for the work this firm did as a team for policyholders.

Viau & Kwasniewski received the recognition of being among the Top 100 California Lawyers by an independent organization; this firm does quality work at the top level in the state.  So, other than researching the experience of a lawyer and determining what recognition that the lawyer has received for his or her work.

How do you find good insurance lawyers that are right for you and your case?  What do you look for and what should you expect in a good lawyer?

To be a good lawyer who gets good results and provides excellent legal representation is demanding and difficult.  At Viau & Kwasniewski we know that clients demand and deserve lawyers who are experienced, tough, resilient, know their stuff, work hard, and care about you.

A good lawyer cares about the profession and his or her clients.

A good lawyer works  hard.

A good lawyer only takes meritorious cases.

Contrary to popular belief, a good and effective lawyer is honest and ethical.

A good lawyer knows that his or her stock in trade is credibility.

A good lawyer knows when it is time to be realistic about the value and the risks in a case.

A good lawyer knows that after a  lawsuit is filed and discovery begins the case will never be the same again. Through discovery, evidence is revealed showing the true nature of the case.

A good lawyer knows that his or her job is to help those who are being oppressed and cheated by those who are more powerful.  That, sometimes means cutting fees and doing work without pay.

A good lawyer believes that each one of us in this society has value, and the laws are the means to ensure that our individual rights are protected regardless of our wealth, power or social standing.

A good lawyer is tenacious and has a philosophy that every problem has a solution.

A good lawyer knows which battles to fight and which to avoid.  When a lawyer is litigating a serious case for you against a major corporation or billion dollar insurance company, the insurance defense lawyers will typically try to wear the opposing  lawyer down.  An experienced lawyer will avoid filing unproductive motions and fighting over every tactic some opposing lawyers use.  The effective lawyer will  fight only those battles that matter.

We have learned at Viau & Kwasniewski that a good legal team has lawyers with complementary skills.  It will have lawyers with excellent research and legal brief writing skills.  It will have lawyers that have years of experience taking effective depositions, effectively arguing issues of law before a judge and who can effectively present your case at trial. No individual lawyer can be the best at everything.

Most importantly a good lawyer cares about you as a person and knows that it isn’t just another case.  A good lawyer knows that it is your case, that it is serious and the outcome will most likely affect you and your family for the rest of your life.  Take time to find the right lawyer for you.  Ask questions, and find out the kind of results that the lawyer has achieved.  

If you are looking for lawyers to handle your insurance bad faith case and want more information about how to find a lawyer who is right for you and your type of case, contact our office for more free information.  We can be reached at 1-800-663-1095 or you can e-mail us at  Our address and all of our contact information can be found on our website at

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Insurance Lawyers and Public Adjusters

For over twenty five years the lawyers at Viau & Kwasniewski have observed first hand that there are many opportunities for insurance companies to cut corners, delay the claim process, under-value or outright deny a valid claim just to increase the insurance company's profits.  If a homeowner or small business has suffered a significant loss and has to file an insurance claim, there is the concern that they will not be treated fairly by their insurance company.  For that reason, insureds reach out to insurance lawyers like Viau & Kwasniewski, or public adjusters to assist them with their claim. 

Lawyers often charge by the hour if they assist an insured with a claim prior to litigation.  Sometimes lawyers agree to a percentage of any payouts on the claim.  Some people turn to public adjusters to represent their interests and to assist them in their claim because they believe it will be less costly than hiring a lawyer.  Sometimes that is true, and sometimes it is not true.  It often depends on the competence and professionalism of the public adjuster or the lawyer, the complexity of the insurance issues, and the good faith or lack of good faith of the insurance company.

In California, public adjusters are licensed by the state to represent policyholders/insureds during an insurance claim.  We at Viau & Kwasniewski have seen and experienced the fact that, as with all professionals, some public adjusters are very competent, ethical, and professional.  These public adjusters can help an insured get a better result on their claim than they would without any help. On the other hand, the lawyers at Viau & Kwasniewski have also seen that some public adjusters are not sufficiently competent, ethical or professional and end up doing more harm to an insured then good.

Some public adjusters take an overly adversarial approach that actually works a disservice to the insured.  Some public adjusters are not persistent enough, and under-value a claim, or do not get the most competent experts involved.  Some do not sufficiently advocate on the insured's behalf for a fair settlement, just to make a quick fee.  Some public adjusters take positions on coverage or the value of a loss that is not supported by the law, the regulations, or the evidence. 

The insurance lawyers at Viau & Kwasniewski have observed over the years that whatever position a lawyer or a public adjuster takes on any issue in a claim, it must be consistent with the law and pertinent regulations, and there must be credible back-up - evidence - to support the position.  When any professional, whether it is a lawyer or public adjuster that is supposed to be assisting you with your claim, takes unreasonable positions contrary to the law that do not make sense and cannot be supported with credible evidence, the professional loses credibility.  The result often is an unresolved insurance claim.  In those situations the insured's interests are harmed.

It is our position at the law firm of Viau & Kwasniewski that you should consider the services of a public adjuster or a lawyer if you have a substantial insurance claim.  We also strongly believe that before you hire a public adjuster or a lawyer to help you with your claim check them out thoroughly and get references.  Make sure they have a reputation for being competent and delivering for their clients.  Meet with them and understand what services they are offering you.  Find out what fees you will incur for their services. 

Also, a public adjuster cannot obtain emotional distress damages for an insured during the claim process.  Emotional distress damages can be recovered for you by an insurance lawyer in litigation if the insurance company acts unreasonably toward you, its insured. 

At Viau & Kwasniewski we are very concerned that our clients are satisfied with our service.  We have an impeccable record of satisfied clients.  We have a very good reputation with public adjusters, except for one who has complained in a long rambling blog that he was not paid for work he did for our clients.  The fact is, that he was paid for work he did by all of our clients.  In one matter that stands out, this public adjuster was unable to resolve the claim, and only wrote a number of e-mails to lawyers representing the insurance company.  At that time the claim was already in litigation, initiated by the client representing herself.  It is questionable whether it was proper for this public adjuster to get actively involved representing the insured after the case was in litigation.  The issues were purely legal.  A public adjuster is prohibited by law from giving legal advice.

 After Viau & Kwasniewski got involved in the litigation, the claim was ordered by the court into an expensive appraisal process.  When the appraisal result came back positively for the insured, and the insurance company paid an amount based on the appraisal award, this public adjuster demanded that our client pay him 15% of this payment.  He made this demand despite the fact that this firm managed the appraisal process, obtained the best experts, and was actively involved every step of the way in the appraisal process to the extent permissible.  The positive result of the appraisal was accomplished without the efforts of this public adjuster during the appraisal process.  Therefore, our client refused to pay him.

There are some lawyers who, when approached by an insured previously represented by a public adjuster without a fair resolution on their claim, advise their clients to fire their public adjuster before filing a lawsuit.  We at Viau & Kwasniewski do not necessarily agree with this approach, unless the public adjuster has acted improperly or taken an adversarial stance against the insured.  Sometimes a public adjuster cannot get a claim fairly resolved despite their best efforts, only because the insurance company refuses to be reasonable. 

The bottom line is that if you have a substantial claim and are concerned that you need help negotiating with your insurance company, by all means consider the services of a competent public adjuster and also the services of a competent experienced insurance lawyer.  If the claim is substantial, or there are complicated issues of policy interpretation and/or other issues of  law, you should seriously consider the services of a seasoned insurance lawyer.  Although competent public adjusters can help in many situations, they are not allowed to give you legal advice regardless of how good they are.

At Viau & Kwasniewski we give free advice on the telephone every day.  If you have a question about any insurance matter feel free to call us at 1-800-663-1095.  You can also visit us at our website at    

Monday, January 13, 2014

“Living Document” of US Common Law Lives: California Supreme Court Ruling Grants Insured New Tools to Battle Bad Faith Insurance

Ask an American what makes their country great and chances are you’ll hear statements like: “social and economic mobility,” the freedom to live out the Declaration of Independence’s credo of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and religious tolerance.

All excellent answers. But what about our legal system? Our system’s strength (which codifies and legitimizes Americans’ relationship to their government) rests not in excess rigidity, but durability through flexibility – able to absorb societal shocks when the winds of change blow.

Case in point: From 1896-1954 racial segregation was permitted in public facilities provided they were “separate but equal.” This was the law of the land – until it wasn’t. In 1954, the US Supreme Court determined that separate but equal was “inherently unequal.” Case law or “common law” derived from situational developments debated in court – not inflexible dictates – is what makes US law so unique. Our laws aren’t a static list of “dos” and “don’ts,” but rather a “living document,” adapting to the times, reliant on case law and statutory law to define what’s legal and what isn’t. Strength through flexibility at its finest.

This great American legal strength was on full display in 2013 across California and sets an encouraging tone for the new year ahead. In August 2013, the California Supreme Court greatly expanded the types of claims insurance policyholders could file under the California Unfair Competition Law or UCL, with their holding in Zhang v. Superior Court.

The court found that policyholders could sue their insurance company under the UCL based on allegations of bad faith and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising. The recent case before the court concerned a plaintiff represented by Viau & Kwasniewski, who was seeking insurance company compensation following a fire at her business and the insurance company’s alleged false advertising which promised timely and proper payment.

While these types of claims could have been argued through other legal mechanisms before, applying such criteria to the UCL was a first and offered a much broader, more liberal interpretation of policyholder rights. In other words, the court granted the insured a new tool in the fight against bad faith insurance companies.

The bigger takeaway is this: Americans’ rights are under continual review and each new case tests the accuracy and robustness of established legal precedent. Insurance bad faith remains an all-too-common problem and is particularly vexing when policyholders are at their most vulnerable following significant property damage or complete loss. These are crisis points where insurance companies should to the best of their abilities make their clients whole as quickly as possible.

Expanded insurance policyholder rights may not be as profound as re-writing America’s racial rulebook. But that commitment to endless revision, to unabashed national legal self-critique is one of our country’s most enduring qualities.

As we enter 2014, it’s inspiring to us at Viau & Kwasniewski to think about what additional decisions the California Supreme Court and other jurisdictions will hand down as related to insurance bad faith. What other immutable laws of the land are about to be re-written and fundamentally re-interpreted? What new rights are about to be won?

Armed with a new tool to battle insurance bad faith, I hope you will consider Viau & Kwasniewski a valuable resource. Let me know your thoughts in the space below or email the lawyers at Viau & Kwasniewski; Gary Kwasniewski at or Jeanette Viau at, or call us at (800) 663-1095.