DAS has for the first time topped the £50m mark for annual business – buoyed by a 21% increase in its consolidated income for the year 2000.

The legal expenses insurer achieved a pre-tax profit of £6.3m, up 3.2% on 1999's £6.1m and a consolidated income of £52.5m (£43.3m in 1999).

Managing director Paul Asplin said that the company's growth was balanced by its relatively modest increase in profits.

He explained: “Prospects for this year reflect generally adverse trading conditions and we are working on the assumption of reduced profitability for 2001.”

DAS's Ireland operation, however, saw a considerable rise in growth of almost 40% to £1.16m.

In the UK, the insurer achieved significant growth in commercial legal protection, helpline services and motor assistance, in which DAS has invested heavily.

Despite over-capacity in the assistance market, DAS said it had returned to profitability in this area.

DAS is a major player in the uninsured loss recovery market with 3.6 million policies, and last year introduced an employment practices protection policy for employers.

The insurer is also expanding its conditional fee insurance services later this year.

Asplin said: “There are clear signs that many of the non-specialist underwriters and companies involved in after the event insurance are making fundamental errors.

“Our approach remains cautious, but we shall in due course become a major underwriter in this field,” he added.