Injury victims being diagnosed remotely during the coronavirus pandemic appear happy to continue with virtual assessments, new research has found.

A poll by personal injury specialist Minster Law found that 82% of clients attending their first appointment through a video call were satisfied or very satisfied with how it had gone. A similar proportion were satisfied with the advice received and 89% said the appointment was easy.

Similar responses were reported from clients who had previously attended a face-to-face examination, although these made up just a quarter of the 136 people surveyed overall.

Remote diagnosis has temporarily been adopted during the lockdown, despite insurers’ reservations about the potential for increased fraud. Changes in protocol around video appointments has been facilitated by agreements between claimant and defendant sectors, as well as Medco, which arranges whiplash diagnosis, relaxing its rules on remote examinations. But the question is now whether these arrangements continue as restrictions are eased and there are fewer barriers to personal appointments.

Minster Law claims director Marcus Taylor said the industry has a responsibility to respond to what clients want, and should look to digitise this and other parts of the claims journey.

‘Not only is this proving much more convenient for customers, but it is also reducing the number of missed appointments and saves the customer time and money as they no longer need to arrange travel to a GP,’ said Taylor, who firm handles around 25,000 claims a year.

‘The industry must become more attuned to customers and deliver services that injured people actually want, rather than adopt a ‘computer says no’ attitude to changing customer demand. Covid-19 has released the 'virtual claims management' genie from the bottle and there will be no going back.’

Taylor acknowledged that insurers will have misgivings about increased fraud from virtual treatments, but he called for an evidence-based review to assess whether that is actually likely to happen.

The effect of Covid-19 on costs in personal injury cases is another issue that will come up for debate when the crisis subsides.

Speaking at a webinar today hosted by international firm DWF, partner Nicola Critchley said changes in the claims process will have consequences for future disputes about costs.This could include arguments about hourly rates when lawyers are working at home, about the costs of copying when files are digital, and about whether lengthy trips to see clients in person are necessary (and the costs recoverable) when video conferencing is readily available.