The new era of lawyers and insurers working to reduce friction in the claims process looks set to continue for a few more weeks at least.
A statement of intent between the Association of British Insurers and the Association of Consumer Organisations – which represents dozens of claimant firms – has been extended until the end of the current lockdown, and is likely to remain in place well into 2021.
The agreement effectively asks insurers and firms to work together to ensure claims can progress despite issues around service on lawyers working from home and difficulties with diagnosing claimants remotely.
Despite the two sides so often being at loggerheads in recent years over reform of the PI sector, there is widespread acknowledgement that lawyers have been able to work more collaboratively since the start of the pandemic.
Speaking at the ABI’s virtual motor conference this week, LV+ claims director Martin Milliner said he had seen ‘a really good set of behaviours across personal injury’ where there has been ‘a laying down of arms’.
He continued: “The protocols and agreements reached with claimant lawyers and insurers around not suing each other during the process of lockdown is testament to the new collaboration that seems to have developed as a trend between insurers and claimant lawyers over the last few months, which is real pleasant out turn from the adversity.’
The statement of intent between the ABI and ACSO allows for diagnosis of injuries and rehabilitation to be delivered by remote video. The parties agree to use telephone and/or email rather than post to communicate with each, and payments are made promptly and by bank transfer wherever possible.
Alternative dispute resolution options are actively encouraged at all stages of the low-value claims process, with the claim being pursued further only if these have proved unsuccessful. Although adherence to these principles is not mandatory, it is reported that most firms and insurers have complied.
One aspect that is different about this lockdown is the approach of MedCo, the organisation for overseeing diagnosis of whiplash injuries. Initially during the first wave of the pandemic, remote examinations were banned, only for this rule to later be relaxed.
This time, medical report providers are being told they must not conduct face-to-face examinations while the current restrictions are in force. Existing appointments should be cancelled and alternative arrangements made. Government guidance allows exemptions to the stay-at-home rule for hospital and other medical appointments, but MedCo has interpreted this as applying to treatment only.