A leading personal injury firm has said alternative dispute resolution will become the default way for settling claims where agreement cannot be reached directly with the insurer.
Yorkshire firm Minster Law this week released the preliminary results of a study into ADR, conducted alongside an insurance firm and technology company, which aimed to look at how viable it would be for future claims.
A total of 39 claims were settled during the pilot project in March and April, all for minor injuries following a road traffic accident including rehabilitation. Claims were settled within an average of 2.5 working days, with the quickest settled within 24 hours. Of all the claims in the pilot, all but one settled above the insurer’s final offer and damages ranged from £2,100 to £5,167.
The senior judiciary, notably Master of the Rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos, have given ringing endorsements of ADR and its role for the future. That change is likely to be accelerated if more firms like Minster come out in favour of closer cooperation with insurers over the adversarial approach.
Ministry of Justice statistics show the average time taken for small claims and multi or fast-track claims to go to trial is now 51 weeks and 73 weeks respectively -14 and 13 weeks longer than the same period in 2019.
Minister Law chief executive Shirley Woolham said there is now a ‘compelling argument’ to step up the adoption of ADR for personal injury cases up to £25,000. ‘The point of settlement is to allow injured people to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible,’ she said. ‘That simply can’t happen if they have to wait over a year for their case to come to court.’
As of next Monday, all RTA claims worth less than £5,000 will go through the new claims portal designed to be used by unrepresented litigants and in theory resulting in quicker settlements with insurers.
Woolham stressed that there are benefits for PI practices from ditching traditional ways of litigating.
She added: ‘A law firm’s first duty of care is to the customer, including consideration of all viable options to progress a customers’ case. We also have a duty to ensure that court resources are used properly and using ADR frees up valuable court time for other matters.’
‘Frictional costs and charges are no longer acceptable in the 2020s, with ADR and other technology at our disposal.’
The pilot was carried out in partnership with Nuvalaw, a technology company that has developed a claims resolution platform offering negotiation tools and ADR. The firm said feedback had been positive from consumers who agreed up front that the outcome was binding.