By way of feedback on your excellent and provocative CPD column in Insurance Times, may I add a comment on behalf of the legal profession?

The one answer which appears to be absent from all current insurance professional training questions is: "It depends on the precise wording of the contract."

A feature of the training - which is reflected in the general practice - in the London Market is a tendency to assume that there is one "standard" or "typical" contract which applies to each situation.

While that may work 75% of the time, as those professionals who have been obliged to refer a dispute to court or arbitration should be aware, the law makes no such assumptions.

"Look at the contract and see what it says," is the clear and unambiguous message delivered by the House of Lords.

Greater emphasis in professional training on basic contractual discipline - that is, looking at and understanding the actual words, rather than operating under some notional a priori concept of what those words might or should say or mean - would cut the industry's legal expenditure in half at a stroke.

Archaic and obscure wordings would be driven out, rather than being left to prop up shaky and ambiguous policy forms.

The parties would be able to read and understand what they have actually signed up to. Coverage disputes would be minimised.

The poor reputation of the profession for resorting to weasel words and small print would change.

It might do wonders for brokers' E&O as well...

Peter L Taylor
Lovells Insurance and Reinsurance Group

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