Since the Jackson reforms came into force, we have been busy liaising with our panel of solicitors through visits and calls. The overall impression we get is that times are tough for them.
Many have yet to work out where they are going to get their work from - they were far too busy with the mass of work taken on prior to the changes to be able to make plans. Some firms have sorted themselves out but they are in the minority. Most if not all have a bleak outlook for the future and are thinking of moving into other areas of work - for example financial mis-selling claims.
The result of this is a significant downturn in ATE policy numbers. We are not alone. We are advised that numbers are down across the whole industry. When you couple the reduction in claims with the fact that solicitors are allowing clients to choose not to protect themselves with a policy (costing £80 for goodness sake!) then the future is looking 'troubled' for many ATE insurance providers.
The good news is the fact that historically, premium payments have been deferred until the end of claims. This means that most insurers have a lot in reserve but this is only going to shore things up for a year or two. What happens then?
Well I believe many ATE insurers will pull out of the market. It will not sustain large unwieldy organisations whose overheads drive up premiums. What will happen will be that there will remain a handful of specialist providers but I suspect premiums will rise as volumes reduce.
We will still be here. The numbers we are now insuring means we will continue to do business and those numbers will improve as firms begin solving the problem of where their work will be coming from.
The ATE landscape will however have been irreparably changed as a result of the reforms.