Insurance/reinsurance

Insurance/reinsurance

Stephanie Castell

BLM

University: University of Kent
Degree: Law

Insurance (and reinsurance – the insurance of insurers) is an integral part of commercial activity throughout the world. The insurance practices of top-end firms advise on a range of areas, including coverage disputes, investment management, documentation, mergers and acquisitions of insurers, and the transfer of books and business between insurers. Regulatory law governs matters such as the establishment and regulation of insurance companies throughout the world. Clients include insurers, reinsurers and UK insurance institutions, as well as major insured companies and their captive insurers.


Stephanie Castell’s journey into the legal profession began at the University of Kent, where she gained her law degree; and continued at The University (then College) of Law for the Legal Practice Course stage. She joined BLM, well known for its status as a leader in the field of insurance law, as a trainee in the Southampton office in 2010, where her experiences during the training contract proved to be ideal preparation for her future practice: “I spent one of my seats on secondment at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which was a very interesting and beneficial experience, seeing Bills being written and presented through Parliament and particularly as many of the firm’s customers work with the ABI on current topical issues.”

Now a partner at the firm, Stephanie is part of the catastrophic injury team, where she acts on behalf of insurers defending high-value claims brought against them or their insured’s involving serious injuries. “My caseload involves defending claims for traumatic brain and spinal injuries as well as amputation cases, with most claims valued above £1 million,” she explains.

In addition to the kinds of claims already described, Stephanie has worked on a number of complex cerebral palsy cases where there is dispute as to whether injuries may have been caused by, for example, a road traffic accident, or an unexplained and unregistered insult to the foetus en ventre sa mere (in the womb).

Complex investigations

Such serious issues require sensitivity and the opinions of medical experts – and sometimes those in other fields, as well – to establish the facts and arrive at an appropriate level of damages. “Some cases can take years to run from start to finish given the complexity of the medical problems and investigations needed,” she explains. “Part of my role is to investigate liability and determine fault, which may involve analysing an accident scenario, conducting interviews and considering expert reconstruction evidence. The next stage is to consider quantum, which is the value of the injuries as set out by the courts and the compensation that should be paid to put the claimant back in the position they would have been in pre-accident. These valuations are based on medical evidence, so in the case of a traumatic brain injury with ongoing effects, we would usually instruct a neurologist who will not only comment on the severity of the injury, but also any risk of post traumatic epilepsy and any effect on life expectancy. There is often an array of evidence to get through and experts to consult.” Clearly, solicitors who work on cases involving catastrophic injury can foster very different relationships with the solicitors on the opposing side than might be the case with solicitors in other practice areas, as the severity of the injuries involved in such cases requires, more often than not, a collaborative approach to securing the right level of damages.

“The workload is not for the faint hearted, dealing with complex medical terminology and conditions, while balancing court-imposed time limits”

One of the most appealing aspects of the role is the regular opportunity to consult with experts who are frequently leaders in their fields. “The same applies on the purely legal side,” she adds. “I instruct top QCs and work with excellent solicitors. The variety of professionals that I work with is another attraction of the role.” But an interesting, high-value caseload is not without its pressures: “The workload is not for the faint hearted, dealing with complex medical terminology and conditions, while balancing court-imposed time limits to factor in with many other cases as part of one’s caseload; it can be demanding.”

As for highlights in Stephanie’s career so far, becoming a partner would be a tough one to surmount: “I have helped to build a strong catastrophic injury team in the Southampton office and have responsibility to not only conduct my own caseload, but also to train and develop the more inexperienced members of the team.”

Unknown territory

Stephanie comments on the recent change to the discount rate causing concern in the insurance industry, which has sparked wide debate as to how such a rate should be set in the future: “We are still very much in unknown territory. Such uncertainties, and the status of the industry, mean that there is an onus on solicitors’ firms to continue adapting to meet the challenges of an environment that is as competitive as ever where you are judged not only on your ability to carry out the work, but what ‘extras’ you can bring to the table.”

Finally, Stephanie has the following advice for those aspiring to join the solicitors’ profession themselves. “A strong academic record and the ability to manage complex information to arrive at good solutions is essential, but there is much more to being a solicitor than legal expertise – you need a much wider skill set. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are also essential in addition to prioritising your workload and the ability to adapt and understand evidence in an array of often unfamiliar fields of expertise.” 

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