When you are involved in an accident, you may have to file a lawsuit. In California, you sue the other person. The insurance company will then assign an attorney to defend the other party. That attorney reports to the insurance company, is paid for by the insurance company, but also works for the defendant.
Many insurance policies have a provision that the insurance company, in their sole discretion, can settle a case for under policy limits without the input of their insured. Yes, they get to decide when to settle a case and when not to.
The defense attorney’s primary job, at least early in the case, is gathering additional information to help the adjuster evaluate the case. Sometimes, though not often, the evaluation will increase upwards. Sometimes, the evaluation will go down. In some instances, the attorney is a warm body who has been hired because the insurance company needs an attorney to handle legal matters, but the insurance company will do as it pleases. There is often very little separation between the insurance company and the attorney, and in some cases, the attorneys are employees of the insurance company.
That is your basic outline on how the defense attorney is involved. More to come on this in the future.