It is hard to overstate the importance of insurance in personal and commercial life. It is the key means by which individuals and businesses are able to reduce the financial impact of a risk occurring. Reinsurance is equally significant; it protects insurers against very large claims and helps to obtain an international spread of risk. Insurance and reinsurance play an important role in the world economy. It is an increasingly global industry, with emerging markets in Asia and Latin America developing apace.
Given the expanding reach of the industry, there is a need for a source of reference that analyses recent developments in the key jurisdictions on a comparative basis. This volume, to which leading insurance and reinsurance practitioners around the world have made valuable contributions, seeks to fulfil that need. I would like to thank all of the contributors for their work in compiling this volume.
Although 2019 looks likely to be benign in terms of insured losses from natural catastrophes, there is continuing concern that climate change will see a long-term increase in the number and severity of such losses; the scope of the Australian wildfires at the end of the year may be a portent of things to come. From a legal perspective, the changing nature of natural catastrophes will raise issues of policy construction in relation, for example, to aggregation clauses and the obligation on reinsurers to follow their insured's underlying settlements.
Aggregation may also be an area of uncertainty in relation to the treatment of catastrophic losses such as the coronavirus outbreak originating in China but with worldwide consequences.
The year 2019 saw no respite in the number or scale of cyber events, including the huge data breaches at Facebook and at other global organisations such as Microsoft, Capital One, First American Corporation and government organisations in countries ranging from Bulgaria to Singapore. Events such as these test not only insurers and reinsurers but also the rigour of the law. Insurance and reinsurance disputes provide a never-ending array of complex legal issues, and new points for the courts and arbitral tribunals to consider. Most recently the courts in England and Wales have held that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are 'property' for legal purposes.
Looking ahead, 2020 is likely to see new developments and new legal issues. In particular, the impact of insurtech on the way in which insurance is underwritten, serviced and distributed will continue to present challenges around the world. This is reflected in our chapter on artificial intelligence.
I hope that you find this eighth edition of The Insurance and Reinsurance Law Review of use in seeking to understand today's legal challenges, and I would like once again to thank all the contributors.