Marine Insurance: Breaking the Stalemate

With a growing number of reports accusing Marine Insurance Companies of refusing to pay out on claims, ignoring correspondence and remaining silent until pressured to act by the threat of legal action, Tim Reynolds explains how specialist solicitors are in a unique position to broker resolutions.

In recent months, insurance has become a major topic for discussion in the marine industry. An increasing number of angry and frustrated boat owners appear to be railing against companies who deny their claims of compensation and accusations and simply pull down their shutters.

‘It is a difficult climate at the moment, that’s for sure,’ confirms legal specialist, Tim Reynolds, Director of Verisona Law and head of the firm’s specialist Marine services. ‘As is the case throughout the world of insurance, prudent companies are reluctant to pay out for fear of encouraging spurious claims in times of economic hardship, but it would appear that genuine cases are struggling to be heard.’

‘There are a small but significant group of new insurance companies, often internet based, who have been attracted to the market by comparatively high premium returns and either lack the experience to identify and address legitimate claims, or cynically stall settlement of good claims until the more persistent insured instructs solicitors and threaten litigation.’

For his clients, Reynolds has adopted a more conciliatory approach than is the stereotypical perception of a solicitor. ‘If a client comes to see me with talk of ‘suing an insurance company’ or ‘taking a matter to court’, I allow them to let out their frustration before asking questions and getting to the heart of the matter.’

‘If we establish a case that warrants serious attention, I will write to the insurance company on behalf of the client and in the vast majority of cases receive an efficient, professional response.’

This is the role Reynolds believes his colleagues in the legal profession should take to help break the industry stalemate. ‘If owners of yachts, boats and marine assets see a suitably experienced marine solicitor early on, we can either advise that a claim has no real merit or prospects and preserve long term insurer/insured relationships which are still commonplace in the marine insurance, or do the necessary work to prove the legitimacy of a claim,’ he explains.

‘A case that is then brought to the insurance company is then viewed having validity and credibility so insurance companies who are committed to providing a good service to their customers will respond positively and thrive. Those that don’t should anticipate that, with customers increasingly inclined to share their experiences in Internet forums, they will not attract new business.

‘Reputable Insurance companies know that neither their clients nor solicitors would waste time and money on a case that did not warrant their attention,’ Reynold continues. ‘Those of us in the legal profession who know and understand the often complex issues of law and fact involved could well provide a filter that separates genuine claims from the bogus.’

And the, conclusion, as Reynolds explains, will be that ‘Relationships are restored and the marine insurance industry can recover its goodwill and reputation which has, often unfairly, taken a bit of a battering of late.’

Make an