Insurance Business Canada recently released the results of a large nation-wide survey of insurance companies and the lawyers they retain.

The good news for plaintiff lawyers is that half (47%) of defence lawyers expect more work in the coming year, so you can too. The other half anticipates the same workload as this year; none expect their workload to decrease.

IBC asked about the biggest legal issues facing the industry today and unsurprisingly COVID-19 topped the list. (Nudorra Capital has reported about the pandemic more than once in the past year, particularly insurers’ denials of claims for long-haul COVID sufferers.) Among insurers’ many COVID-related legal concerns are the determination of coverage under specific policy wordings. Defence lawyer Pasquale Peloso of Ottawa noted that the pandemic caused some underwriters to withdraw liability coverage from policyholders.

The long-term effects of COVID-19 on insurance law are still unknown. “[There are] still outstanding issues with respect to coverage for personal injury and property damage from the pandemic,” said one respondent. “COVID-19 will be less of an issue because inclusions are being written into the insurance premiums,” said another survey participant, although they added that issues could still arise in future pandemics from anything that might fall outside these inclusions.

Leading defence lawyers say the sudden shift to remote work due to the pandemic has affected all steps in litigation and will likely result in a hybrid means of litigation in future. Nudorra has noted that judges and plaintiff counsel have the same expectation, in tribunals and in courtrooms. Defence lawyer Daniel Downe of Calgary says, “A majority of legal steps are being done remotely, limiting the interaction for all parties involved in a dispute.”

Another of the biggest legal issues right now is the discussions in several provinces about moving to a no-fault or modified no-fault auto insurance system. We have reported on this several times in the past year, particularly about changes in British Columbia and government reviews commissioned by Alberta and Ontario.

Other key areas of concern on the defence radar include tort reform, and the size of judgments in injury cases.

IBC surveyed a wide range of insurers to determine what they value in the law firms they work with, then spoke to hundreds of insurance professionals across Canada, asking them to rate the law firms and defence lawyers they had worked with over the previous 12 months. IBC also asked insurance lawyers which law firms they would recommend besides their own. In the interests of plaintiff counsel “knowing thy opponent”, here the Top 15 insurance defence lawyers and firms:

NOTE: This article is based on information available in November 2021.

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