Duties Under Duress is a unique term used within insurance company bodily injury software used to evaluate personal injury claims. The original programmers of Colossus, and later Liability Navigator, used the term "Duties Under Duress" as a replacement for disability. Disability as determined by doctors using forms such as the Neck Disability Index or Oswestry Low Back Disability Questionnaire, is provided no value by the bodily injury software used by insurers.
So, what is Duties Under Duress? It is pain while conducting an activity. Based upon Aaron DeShaw's authoritative text on bodily injury software Colossus: What Every Trial Lawyer Needs to know, Duties Under Duress is most the fifth most valuable factor in bodily injury claims behind; 1. Diagnoses, 2. AMA Permanent Impairment, 3. Prognosis, and 4. Loss of Enjoyment of Life.
DeShaw notes that based upon non-protected software manuals and original programming notes, all disability for a claim is valued based upon four categories of Duties Under Duress, and around 100 sub-factors in those four categories. Each of these has monetary value. DeShaw created forms (published by Trial Guides as the Colossus: Legal Forms) to collect information on these factors and sub-factors that must be used in personal injury claims in order to get the insurance software to provide an evaluation of the claim most likely to provide a better settlement offer in the client's case. This information is trademark protected by Trial Guides and Aaron DeShaw, so Settlement Intelligence has exclusively licensed this intellectual property and as such, no competing demand letter software will be able to provide these 100+ value drivers within their software. All of the Duties Under Duress factors and sub-factors are contained within the Settlement Intelligence algorithm to help you generate demand letters most likely to maximize settlement offers. But, the forms are necessary for you and/or a doctor to collect this information in order for it to be usable in a claim. As discussed below, you cannot simply enter information without proof of the loss from the client and their doctor.
If a client has pain during an activity, but does it anyway due to the necessity for the client to continue doing the activity in support of their family, the physician should note that in the chart note, or the narrative report. They should include what activity was affected, why it was affected by the injuries sustained, and how long the client performed the activity with pain.
Please note that a Duties Under Duress claim is only for injured people who continued to do an activity despite pain, not for people who quit doing an activity due to pain, or hire someone else to do it for them.
A time restriction at work due to pain caused by working a normal shift is proof of a duty under duress at work. It also includes “light duty” work, due to pain. It could also include a long list of activities that the client continues to do at home in order to keep the home or his/her family secure. The lawyer must then also make a claim for the patient performing the task under duress. This is an absolutely critical step in your demand letter. This step is built into the Settlement Intelligence workflow.
Adjustors are instructed that three things must occur in order to enter “Duties Under Duress” in the claim software:
- The injured party must actually do one of the accepted activities while in pain;
- The physician must appropriately chart the injured party’s performance while in pain; and
- The lawyer must specifically make the claim for the Duties Under Duress.
If any one of the three is not applicable, the adjustor doesn’t enter the Duties Under Duress. So, even if the client has pain while working, and the doctor notes it appropriately, the client is given no credit in the settlement evaluation, unless a claim for Duties Under Duress is in your demand letter. This is a reason why 3/4 page demand letters or medical timeline demands don’t result in full value for a claim that will be primarily analyzed by an insurance claim software program. You miss things like Duties Under Duress that could significantly boost the value of the claim. As DeShaw discusses, failing to make a Duties Under Duress claim could result in a decreased claim value of up to $28,000 depending upon other factors in the case.
If your firm is producing short demand letters that do little beyond a vague summary of the injuries and a monetary demand, you are settling your clients cases for less than they are worth in the insurance company's software. At the same time, if you are producing 50 page medical timeline or narrative demand letters that ramble on and on, never discussing Duties Under Duress, you still don’t get the appropriate money for the client.
The Settlement Intelligence platform creates demand letters based upon what the insurance software is evaluating, and in the order that adjustors are asked to enter the information. These programs are used in over 90% of all auto cases in the United States (as well as a high percentage in Canada, the UK, Australia, as well as other countries in Europe and Asia.) Duties Under Duress, is a Top 5 value driver in these programs and one that is almost never addressed by lawyers who write traditional demand letters. Failing to use Settlement Intelligence in your cases results in your clients obtaining thousands or tens of thousands of dollars less per case than they deserve for their injuries. By consistently using Settlement Intelligence for your demand letters, your firm will return higher outcomes for all of your clients, giving your law firm an advantage over competitors.