The Insurance and Reinsurance Law Review: Editor's Preface
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 the contributors for their work in compiling this volume.
One of the defining features of 2020 has been the covid-19 pandemic, which has inflicted terrible human misery around the world. The insurance industry, like most other aspects of the economy, has been badly impacted by the pandemic. Although the financial loss to the industry seems likely to be manageable, it has undoubtedly raised issues about the suitability of a range of policy wordings for the modern commercial environment, while also raising a range of legal issues related to, for example, causation and the quantification of loss. The different jurisdictions represented in this book will have different responses to these developments so it is vital to hear from the lawyers in each of those countries on the factors that will govern the international response.
The year 2020 looks likely to have been a very bad year for insured losses from natural catastrophes, with record numbers of severe windstorms and wildfires. These losses reinforce the continuing concern that climate change will see a long-term increase in the number and severity of such losses. From a legal perspective, the changing nature of natural catastrophes will raise issues of policy construction in relation to, for example, aggregation clauses and the obligation on reinsurers to follow their insured's underlying settlements.
The past year also saw no respite in the number or scale of cyber events, including the data breaches at MGM Resorts and California University and global organisations such as the World Health Organization. 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. Aggregation will also be an area of uncertainty in relation to the treatment of all losses of this kind, and again different jurisdictions are likely to provide different responses.
Most recently, the courts in England and Wales have held that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are 'property' for legal purposes.
Looking ahead, 2021 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 volume of use in seeking to understand today's legal challenges, and I would like to thank once again all the contributors. Finally, I would like to thank Simon Cooper, a consultant at Ince and a colleague of many years, for his huge contribution to finalising this ninth edition of The Insurance and Reinsurance Law Review.