With construction volume down and the cost of defending claims up, major insurers providing professional liability coverage to architects and engineers all plan to raise rates in 2011, according to a new market survey by Ames & Gough, an insurance broker and risk consultant.

The trend, based on responses from insurers representing 70% of the U.S. market for this coverage, is the first across-the-board increase in several years, says Dan Knise, chief executive of the McLean, Va.-based company.

He says about a third of providers had lowered their rates in 2010. Knise points to new project management approaches—such as integrated project delivery and public-private partnerships—as well as the frequency of claims and rising legal costs as factors in the 2011 survey results.

About 40% of insurers set to raise rates this year plan hikes of 6% to 10% or more, says Ames & Gough.

Insurance capacity remains stable, “and there is very little to suggest any dramatic upswing in rates,” says the survey. But “firms thinking about changing insurers should carefully weigh the value of continuity and stability against the near-term opportunity for a lower premium payment,” adds Knise.

To control claims costs, Knise says firms should beef up risk management strategies, manage claims more aggressively, change their work mix, where possible, and more effectively use project managers to communicate project issues and “manage client expectations.”