Delays and early resistance continue to be claimant lawyers’ main gripes with insurers handling brain injury cases – but green shoots of cooperation appear to be emerging. 

Research carried out among claimant brain injury partners at nationwide law firms found the majority (88%) say defence solicitors have failed to respond to requests for rehabilitation within 21 days. In addition, 68% reported defendants’ refusal to accept the recommendations of the initial needs assessment.

But the interviews with 164 partners showed signs that claimant and defendant representatives are more willing than ever to work together for the good of injured people.

Solicitors believe greater cooperation by insurers has been the greatest advance over the past three years. This was placed above advances in treatment and the greater number of rehabilitation units now available, with 56% of respondents reporting improved cooperation so patients gain earlier access to rehabilitation.

Bill Braithwaite QC, head of Exchange Chambers which jointly carried out the research, agreed that cooperation has improved, although some defendants’ rejection of care assessments continues to hinder victims’ recovery.

‘One of the most heartening aspects of acquired brain injury rehabilitation is the increased understanding by insurers of its benefit. They have taken a more open-minded approach in recent years - for which they deserve credit,’ said Braithwaite.

‘[But] this research suggests that in many cases lawyers still cannot agree on the most obvious recommendations as a starting point. Delay is hugely damaging to anyone who has suffered a brain injury. Sensible dialogue on both sides would hugely improve the problem as rehabilitation will only work at its best if both sides enter into it voluntarily.’

The vast majority (97%) of solicitors polled do not believe there are enough residential-based rehabilitation units or programmes in the UK.

Solicitors believe walking is the most effective outdoor activity for brain injury rehabilitation, with fishing, horse riding and gardening also scoring highly. But almost a quarter of those surveyed do not include outdoor activities in rehabilitation plans because of resistance from defence solicitors or insurers.

The research, conducted in October and November 2019, was jointly undertaken by Exchange Chambers and the charity Calvert Reconnections.