Professional indemnity insurance was never intended to cover these wide commercial risks, nor are professional consultants' margins able to cope. Engineers now face claims that far exceed the amount of PI insurance available to them. The cost of PI insurance already dwarfs training and development budgets and will continue to increase. That cost will ultimately fall back on the client, while their professional consultants will operate more and more defensively.
Such a preoccupation with liability adds nothing to the quality of the project and simply pushes up costs – but this is where the industry is heading unless the players decide for themselves that a more equitable way of sharing risk is appropriate.
For many years, tax advisers, accountants, corporate financiers, IT suppliers and the oil industry, recognising that unlimited liability is unrealistic, have routinely agreed contract caps and it is interesting to note that growing numbers of law firms (including, as I said, Ann's own) are reported to adopt caps for negligence claims in their terms of engagement.
Jenny Baster, director, legal group, Arup