32 CFR § 536.53 - Evaluation of claims - general rules and guidelines.

§ 536.53 Evaluation of claims - general rules and guidelines.

(a) Before claims personnel evaluate a claim:

(1) A claimant or claimant's legal representative will be furnished the opportunity to substantiate the claim by providing essential documentary evidence according to the claim's nature including, but not instead of, the following: Medical records and reports, witness statements, itemized bills and paid receipts, estimates, federal tax returns, W-2 forms or similar proof of loss of earnings, photographs, and reports of appraisals or investigation. If necessary, request permission, through the legal representative, to interview the claimant, the claimant's family, proposed witnesses and treating health care providers (HCPs). In a professional negligence claim, the claimant will submit an expert opinion when requested. State law concerning the requirement for an affidavit of merit should be cited.

(2) When the claimant or the legal representative fails to respond in a timely manner to informal demands for documentary evidence, interviews, or an independent medical examination (IME), make a written request. Such written request provides notice to the claimant that failure to provide substantiating evidence will result in an evaluation of the claim based only on information currently in the file. When, despite the government's request, there is insufficient information in the file to permit evaluation, the claim will be denied for failure to document it. Failure to submit to an IME or sign an authorization to use medical information protected by HIPAA, for review or evaluation by a source other than claims personnel, are both grounds for denial for failure to document, provided such evaluation is essential to the determination of liability or damages. State a time limit, for example, 30 or 60 days, to furnish the substantiation or expert opinion required in a medical malpractice claim.

(3) If, in exchange for complying with the government's request for the foregoing information, the claimant or the legal representative requests similar information from the file, the claimant may be provided such information and documentation as is releasable under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). Additionally, work product may be released if such release will help settle the claim. See § 536.18.

(b) An evaluation should be viewed from the claimant's perspective. In other words, before denying a claim, first determine whether there is any reasonable basis for compromise. Certain jurisdictional issues and statutory bases may not be open for compromise. The incident to service and FECA exclusions are rarely subject to compromise, whereas the SOL is more subject to compromise. Factual and legal disputes are compromisable, frequently providing a basis for limiting damages, not necessarily grounds for denial. Where a precise issue of dispute is identified and is otherwise unresolvable, mediation by a disinterested qualified person, such as a federal judge, or foreign equivalent for claims arising under the FCA, should be obtained upon agreement with the claimant or the claimant's legal representative. Contributory negligence has given way to comparative negligence in most United States jurisdictions. In most foreign countries, comparative negligence is the rule of law.

Note to § 536.53:

For further discussion see DA Pam 27-162, paragraph 2-59.