Cozens plans insurance law shake-up

US firm Cozen & O'Connor, which has opened in London last week, is planning to open up the little-used practice of sub- rogation in the UK.

In the US, around 60 per cent of the firm's work is in subrogation – cases where insurance companies sue a third party to recover the cost of a claim.

The firm's founding partner Stephen Cozen says that last year such work put around $150m (£94m) back into the coffers of its insurance company clients.

The firm claims to have the largest subrogation caseload in the world.

In the UK, this area of the law is little-used because many insurance companies believe the procedure is cumbersome and are worried about legal fees escalating while pursuing a claim.

However, by working on a conditional fee basis, Cozen & O'Connor is confident that, given the potential benefits for large companies, it can transfer the US trend to the UK.

“We see a possibility of lowering insurance premiums for major commercial clients for whom premiums are set individually,” says Cozen.

The firm also plans to bill in dollars, which, it says, will save clients thousands of pounds in legal fees because of the relative strengths of the pound and dollar.

Leading insurance firm Barlow Lyde & Gilbert says it is also trying to persuade clients to investigate such a route. “Some insurance companies are recovering between 15 and 20 per cent of payouts through subrogation,” says Roger Doulton, deputy head of the insurance department.

“The area is not as developed as it is in the US – in part because claims for are not investigated early enough in the procedure.”