Insurance Times presents the top five solicitors that have grabbed the claims sector’s attention

The claims world has become one of most exciting areas of insurance. Landmark rulings on pleural plaques, Lord Justice Jackson’s Review and the MoJ reforms have all hit the headlines, while the government’s forthcoming Review of Health and Safety means the spotlight shows no sign of waning. Of course, none of this would be possible without the legal sector. Whether its waving the flag for insurers or fighting them from the opposite lines of the battlefield, there is no question that leading lawyers, such as those profiled here, can effect a powerful influence on the insurance community.

Dan Cutts, president, Forum of Insurance Lawyers and director of insurance, Weightmans

As the president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (Foil), Cutts has unparalleled influence as the voice for the defendant legal community in policy discussions and consultations focusing on insurance law and the claims process.

From 1981 to 1999, he practiced at Eking Manning before joining Weightmans as a partner. As director of insurance and a management board member at the firm, he is responsible for all lines of the firm’s insurance business.

Currently co-authoring Foil’s submission to Lord Young’s Review of Health and Safety, he has been involved in the MoJ’s Claims Process Review and, more recently, Lord Justice Jackson’s report on civil litigation costs. Cutts has also been involved in setting up an industry group to look at fixed fees in the employers’ liability disease arena, following on from Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations in this area.

Chris Phillips, consultant, Keoghs

With over 25 years of experience in defendant personal injury litigation, Phillips is recognised by insurers as one of the most prominent figures in the disease claims arena. He founded the insurance department at Halliwells in 1994, before moving to Keoghs as a consultant in March 2009. Under his helm, he navigated a significant number of important disease cases to appeal in the House of Lords.

Many claims directors recognise Phillips as one of the driving forces behind the landmark plaques decision in 2007 when the Law Lords upheld a Court of Appeal decision that the existence of pleural plaques does not demand compensatable damage.The decision has had a major impact, resulting in substantial financial savings to insurers, industry, public authorities and other organisations.

He also has considerable experience of acting for insurers, large corporate organisations and a variety of local authorities in complex employers’ and public liability litigation. This has included cases involving sensitive child care claims against councils, teachers’ stress claims, injuries arising out of defective schools, passive smoking claims and occupiers' liability claims.

Andrew Underwood, partner and head of complex injury claims, Keoghs

Insurers regard Underwood as one of the leading names among those dealing with serious and catastrophic injury claims in liability and motor. A founder member of Foil in 1993, he was national president for 2004-05, and led a market debate on the multi-track personal injury process. This has now progressed to a market initiative (the Multi-Track Code), which is currently being piloted by a number of major insurers.

He is now chairman of Foil’s rule and process special interest group and has been heavily involved in the MoJ Process Reforms initiative, drafting Foil’s and Keoghs’ response to the consultation. In 2008, he scooped the award for defendant lawyer of the year at the Personal Injury Awards.

Lord Hunt, director of financial services, Beachcroft

Hunt is the industry’s leading voice in parliament. He was senior partner of Beachcroft Solicitors from 1996 to 2005 and is now chairman of the financial services division of Beachcroft LLP, specialising in insurance and financial services.

As a member of the House of Lords, he is an officer of the all-Party parliamentary group on insurance and financial services and is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences on insurance and reinsurance. He is a fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) and was the first independent chairman of its Professional Standards Board. He was president of the CII for 2007-2008 and has also been elected a fellow of the Institute of Actuaries and was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2004 Insurance Times Awards.

He was appointed to the opposition front bench in the House of Lords and was asked by David Cameron last year to shadow the lord president and first secretary of state, Lord Mandelson, in the House of Lords, now at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and also Jack Straw, the lord Chancellor and secretary of state for justice in the House of Lords.

John Spencer, chairman, Motor Accident Solicitors Society (Mass) and chief executive, CS2 Lawyers

As chairman of Mass, Spencer is seen by insurers as one claims director puts it “the sensible face of the claimant solicitors and the one most in line with what is good for the man in the street”. Currently chief executive of CS2 Lawyers Ltd, he was a managing partner in Woodford & Ackroyd Solicitors from 1983 to 1992, going on to become equity partner and head of legal expenses division of Shoosmiths Solicitors until 2007.

In addition to his role at Mass, he is a fellow of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and a key voice in the development of the RTA process. He has been involved in devising rules and in the establishment of a portal. As chairman of Mass, he is a vocal critic of unregulated third-party capture and is also involved in lobbying for predictable damages and for greater control over referral fees. IT