117 N.J.L.J. 6
January 2, 1986
Settlement of Professional
Negligence Action Without
Consent of Client
We have been asked whether a lawyer retained by an insurance
carrier to defend an insured in a matter covered by a Professional
Liability Policy (sometimes called an Errors and Omissions Policy)
has an obligation to keep the insured advised as to the status of
settlement discussions where the client has a deductible or other
The opinions of this Committee as well as numerous decisions in New Jersey Courts have repeatedly held that the insured is the client, and that all of the obligations incident to the lawyer-client relationship obtain. See Opinion 502, 110 N.J.L.J. 349 (1982), and citations therein.
While this is particularly true where the insured has a pecuniary interest in the disposition of the matter, it is important to remember that these duties exist even where there is no question of the adequacy of insurance coverage. Very often the only involvement that a person or family may have with the judicial system arises out of civil litigation in which they are represented by a lawyer engaged by an insurance company. The impression of the legal profession which they gain from that experience will color the image of the profession generally for the rest of their lives.