The insurance industry in New Zealand is a dynamic market, with events of the past few years forcing many to re-examine the adequacy of cover, both domestically and commercially. We are seeing a move by many businesses to a more in-depth analysis of risk.
We act for a number of New Zealand’s major insurers and their clients. We’ve been partnering with insurers and insureds to deal with claims effectively and to help reduce the incidence of claims in the future by identifying key areas of risk and delivering targeted training. Insurers choose to work with us because of our wealth of insurance experience, our national coverage and our cost-effective advice. We are insurance specialists but the breadth of experience at Duncan Cotterill means we can also call on other specialists in areas such as resource management and employment when necessary. Our clients benefit from our full service expertise.
With significant international firms dominating the New Zealand insurance market, we take a global approach to our insurance law practice. Our insurance specialists have strong relationships with brokers, insurers and underwriters in New Zealand, Australia, the wider Asia-Pacfic region and London. We also work closely with insurance law specialists in Australia and internationally through our membership of Terralex, a global network of legal professionals in 100+ countries. Our partners travel frequently to Australia, the UK, the US and Asia building relationships with significant international clients and referral partners.
Material damage – damage to commercial buildings and houses
Material damage has been at the forefront of insurance issues in recent years.
The Canterbury earthquakes have produced significant and complex claims, with a number of technical and novel issues to resolve. The body of case law that has developed from these cases will likely influence how material damage claims are dealt with for decades to come. With more complex claims there is often no quick fix and no 'one size fits all' solution. We take time to understand our client’s individual circumstances and provide solutions based on specialist advice and an appreciation of the market. We also partner with other experts such as brokers, engineers, architects and quantity surveyors to achieve the best outcome.
The rebuild work also comes with its own risks. As the initial material damage claims are winding down, there is an increase in the number of claims relating to sub-standard repair work, which is likely to mean a corresponding increase in claims against professionals.
Professional indemnity insurance provides cover for claims against people operating in a variety of different professions, including medical professionals, accountants, engineers, architects, and lawyers. We assist those professionals both in relation to claims against them and in response to disciplinary proceedings and complaints brought against them.
For construction professionals leaky buildings are still a significant issue; primarily in Auckland, but claims are increasing across the country where they are not time-barred. While often thought about in terms of houses, leaky building issues have also affected commercial premises and schools. This is an issue for insurers who have provided cover to design and construction professionals, as well as for those professionals where their cover is either limited or does not respond.
As more information is kept, used, and shared electronically, it is becoming vitally important to be aware of the associated risks. We can provide advice on the requirements for safely storing digital information and the practicalities of how to deal with a data breach. Liability to third parties for the loss of their information (and coverage from an insurance policy) may depend on how security has previously been dealt with, so it is important to get these things right.
The spotlight is well and truly on health and safety obligations across all industries, particularly now that the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has been passed. We regularly act to defend workplace health and safety prosecutions. We have the geographic coverage to be on the ground immediately for any health and safety incident wherever our client operates, so we can provide assistance from the time that WorkSafe is first notified of an incident.
The recent emphasis on cleaning up New Zealand’s rivers and streams has also led to an increased focus on liability under the Resource Management Act 1991. Those around the country whose activities have the potential to impact the environment will be watching developments closely, particularly because breaches of the Act are strict liability offences with high maximum penalties. We have acted for councils and defendants for these prosecutions.
Directors and officers
Directors and officers policies provide cover to the directors and officers of a company for legal action brought against them for negligent or wrongful acts. It is an area of heightened focus in the business community with a number of high profile claims against directors.