Insurance & Reinsurance Coverage

     
       

Overview

 The practice of insurance and reinsurance coverage requires a deft hand and a keen understanding of related issues. Extracontractual risks in particular – whether first or third party – vary widely by insurance line, jurisdiction and court type. Insurers risk outsized damages and reputational harm if not competently counseled, especially when matters escalate to mediation or litigation. 

Wilson Elser conducts internal peer review of our coverage opinions at no charge. 

As warranted by level of exposure, a team of seasoned practice attorneys will take a fresh look at a coverage opinion to help ensure its accuracy, completeness, and adherence to applicable statutes and regulations.

Wilson Elser maintains a dedicated Insurance & Reinsurance Coverage Practice, a seminal part of the firm’s heritage. More than four decades ago, our founders counseled major global carriers associated with the London Insurance and Reinsurance Market on coverage-related issues. The skill and sophistication of their approach endure today and help explain our practice’s exponential growth. Our nearly 200 Coverage attorneys serve scores of clients representing a cross-section of industries and virtually every insurance line. 

Our services include:

  • Extra-contractual Liability Litigation

    The threat of extra-Contractual liability is unremitting as plaintiff counsel continually advance more aggressive theories of unfair claims practices and bad faith liability against insurers. Whether defending allegations of improper claims processing, payment delays, failure to investigate or breach of contract, Wilson Elser’s Coverage attorneys help clients curtail bad faith liability via quick, intelligent and aggressive representation. We counsel both primary and excess insurers in complex, high-exposure and often high-profile extra-contractual matters. 

    At all stages of an engagement, we rely on proven strategies to defend coverage claims and reduce our clients’ extra-contractual liability. To avoid unnecessary risk exposure and the possibility of litigation, we also collaborate with claims professionals and in-house counsel on ways to ensure compliance with good-faith investigation and approved settlement practices.

  • First-Party Property

    Our Coverage practice attorneys are conversant with first-party property coverages involving catastrophic loss and more common property claims. We work with some of the nation’s largest and most respected first-party insurers when conducting examinations under oath, appraisals and mediations. 

    Our attorneys, several of whom draw on first-party experience at major carriers, address issues such as the circumstances associated with a claim, including concurrent causes of loss; threshold coverage disputes; alternative coverage afforded by different forms of business interruption insurance; catastrophic losses triggered by man-made and natural disasters; subrogation and indemnity recoveries; bad faith and extra-contractual matters; and punitive damages.

  • Third-Party Liability

    We counsel carriers, brokers and third-party administrators on all aspects of this wide and nuanced coverage class. Our representations extend from one-off disputes to multi-layer, multi-party litigation, beginning at the earliest stages of a claim and, as necessary, through litigation, verdict and appeal. Whatever the nature and extent of the matter, we seek to resolve it as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. Our approaches, while based on well-honed best practices, are frequently creative and always in keeping with our clients’ business objectives and risk appetites. 

    When faced with bad faith allegations and extra-contractual exposure, we advise clients on whether and when they should become involved in settlement negotiations of underlying claims. Once decided on the chosen course, we will proactively and aggressively follow through on the matter’s resolution. Our engagements span virtually all coverage categories, including toxic and mass tort, products and completed operations, construction defects, professional liability and personal advertising injury as well as specialty claims associated with various niched industries. We additionally provide counsel with respect to contribution claims against other insurers involving “additional insured” and “other insurance.”

  • Directors & Officers

    As the risk scenarios covered under D&O insurance have expanded in number and complexity, so too have the coverage implications. Much hangs in the balance for corporations, their carriers, and risk-wary directors and officers who rely on these policies to safeguard their financial and reputational well-being. 

    Our Coverage attorneys enjoy success representing primary, excess and “Side A” insurers in connection with claims under D&O policies, many of which we helped craft. We handle claims monitoring with a focus on litigation in underlying cases; strategy assessment; damage evaluation; and claims resolution. We also provide counsel when disputes are elevated to class action status or involve criminal investigations or trials. 

    As with all of our coverage sub-practices, we make every effort to resolve matters swiftly and cost-effectively, most often via mediation or other forms of ADR.

  • Professional Liability

    Errors & omissions insurance has been central to our coverage practice since its inception in 1978. As professional liability policies have proliferated and evolved, we have staffed appropriately, enhanced our capabilities and otherwise kept pace. In fact, several of our senior attorneys are well-regarded thought leaders, publishing and presenting frequently on E&O and related issues. 

    We assist insurance carriers with claims under policies issued to architects, engineers, insurance agents and brokers, lawyers, accountants, health care providers and other professionals. We advise insurers of their rights and obligations under these policies and assist in communicating coverage positions to insureds, including the contentious topic of whether claims were properly made within the policy period. We also consult on when and how to negotiate, arbitrate and litigate coverage defenses without creating extra-contractual exposure. Should an insurer or its insured already have suffered an adverse ruling at trial, we often prevail upon appeal.

  • General Liability

    Our practice attorneys assist clients with the development and interpretation of commercial liability (CGL) policies. We conduct coverage analyses, prepare coverage opinions and issue coverage letters regarding the broad range of exposures triggered under these policies.  Claims most commonly involve bodily injury, property damage, additional insured tenders, recission and bad faith. Several of our attorneys focus their practices on complex construction defects and enjoy success on behalf of major carriers that write these lines. 

    Clients rely on Wilson Elser to handle especially high volumes of CGL matters at all levels of complexity and exposure. Our national office network and deep resources allow us to do so efficiently and effectively across jurisdictions.

  • Transportation

    Many Wilson Elser’s Coverage attorneys have extensive experience interpreting automotive and trucking insurance policies and their application to individual claims. Matters commonly involve uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits and business auto and trucking claims. All are treated with the same vigor and discipline regardless of size and complexity. Client representations involve monitoring, mediations and declaratory relief litigation. 

    As coverage types and policies vary widely by state, our presence in or near most major U.S. markets helps ensure informed, nuanced, on-the-ground representation in jurisdictions nationwide. Our unsurpassed litigation experience enables us to provide clients with objective and realistic assessments of the potential financial liability associated with automotive and trucking coverage disputes. In addition, we may deploy one or more of the firm’s cultivated group of experts.

  • Employment Practices Liability

    Amplified by recent changes in workplace protocols and restrictions, employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) and associated coverage issues have come under increased scrutiny. We are well acquainted with the various types of EPLI coverages – whether stand-alone or as part of other liability policies – and how best to address related issues, claims and disputes. 

    Our involvement spans risks associated with discrimination, harassment, employee discipline, wrongful discharge, breach of employment contract, retaliation, and mismanagement of employee benefits plans, among others. Clients appreciate the ability of our Coverage counsel to effectively handle EPLI matters regardless of volume, complexity and jurisdiction. They also appreciate Wilson Elser’s broader focus on employment law, dating back to our founding more than four decades ago. 

  • Cyber Liability

    The importance of cyber coverage has grown in proportion to the stakes involved. Recent, well-publicized data breaches, ransomware demands and cyber-attacks highlight the need to have sufficient coverage and to retain accomplished counsel to mitigate significant financial and reputational risks. 

    Wilson Elser maintains a national team of experienced insurance attorneys who serve as coverage and monitoring counsel for carriers handling cyber-related claims under cyber liability and technology, media and advertising policies. We counsel clients and provide opinions on most every conceivable first- and third-party coverage issue, collectively representing billions in total losses. Our representations extend well beyond the triggering incident to include business interruption loss to the organization and potential “dependent” losses. We also coordinate with clients in determining appliable coverage, adhering to state-specific regulatory obligations and conducting forensic investigations.

    Clients look to our experience with cyber claims for assistance in drafting cyber liability policy wording and endorsements.  As appropriate, we collaborate with one or more of our colleagues in the firm’s Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Practice when putting policies and procedures in place to guard against potential liability. 

  • Specialty Surplus Lines

    Wilson Elser’s experience in virtually all aspects of specialty lines insurance runs deep. We understand the sizeable risks, complex tower structure, constant market pressure and other challenges faced by insurers who offer these lines. Mostly written on a non-admitted or surplus lines basis, they’re characterized by subtle distinctions and frequently subject to alternative interpretations depending on the party and its interests. 

    Our Coverage attorneys are familiar with what makes specialty claims unique, and they approach each with a deep understanding shaped by decades of related experience. We provide guidance on handling especially difficult claims, render coverage opinions, provide representation in coverage actions and help pursue subrogated claims, among other services.

  • Environmental

    A subgroup of Wilson Elser Coverage attorneys draws on collective decades of experience in environmental insurance coverage. Matters comprise a range of disputes involving defense and indemnity coverage for asbestos or chemical exposures, pollution claims and hazardous waste cleanup. We regularly consult with clients on the coverage implications of environmental spills and contamination under primary, excess and umbrella liability policies, as well as Pollution Legal Liability policies and Contractor Pollution Liability policies. 

    This subgroup’s approach, at times aggressive, is carefully conceived and informed by years of related experience. It has produced consistently favorable results – including the outcomes of some seminal cases – and, to a very real extent, has helped shape relevant case law.

  • Reinsurance

    Deriving largely from our involvement in the London Market, our Coverage practice has long involved reinsurance. We assist reinsurers, ceding companies, brokers, intermediaries and managing general agents with related issues. 

    Mirroring traditional coverage, our work involves virtually every insurance line with disputes frequently resolved through mediation. Matters range from the straightforward to the complex and extend across all types of reinsurance agreements, both facultative and treaty. We also consult on pre-dispute issues, contract interpretation, collection methods and commutations, as well as reinsurance policy language.

Among our practice members are respected thought leaders who frequently publish and present on related issues; several draw on in-house experience at insurance carriers; all have compiled enviable records of success on behalf of their clients. We analyze our clients’ most intricate coverage questions and seek cost-effective and early resolution.  If accepted alternative dispute resolution (ADR) approaches prove unsuitable or unsuccessful, we do not hesitate to escalate matters through the litigation process. 

Of course, the best way to manage disputes is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Wilson Elser places the highest premium on risk management and avoidance, especially when drafting policy wording or rendering coverage opinions.