Insurers, law firms and key suppliers have agreed a statement of intent designed to maintain the personal injury claims process through the COVID-19 crisis. Travel restrictions and social distancing are likely to remain the norm for some time, which will delay almost all legal proceedings, although the entire justice system looks set to adapt very quickly to remote hearings and video links as 2020 progesses.
The statement, brokered by the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), recommends undertaking many non-MedCo medical examinations by remote video examination. It has also been agreed for many claims that rehabilitation (both physiotherapy and psychotherapy) can be done remotely. All other cases of rehabilitation will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
MedCo, the body responsible for overseeing medical reporting, confirmed at the end of March that remote video medical consultations would be acceptable subject to adherence to their guidance, but the ACSO/ABI statement now extends this to medical reports which fall outside MedCo’s remit.
Matthew Maxwell Scott, ACSO executive director, welcomed the statement as a vital step in ensuring injured people can access treatment during the crisis period. “The onus is on insurers, claimant firms and the supply chain to help keep the wheels of justice turning at this difficult time so that injured people can get the medico-legal examinations and rehabilitation treatment they need.
“The more our industry can do on a shared, constructive basis the less pressure there will be on the NHS and the courts,” he added.
James Dalton, Director of General Insurance Policy at the ABI, said: “ABI members are committed to giving extra support and reassurance to customers and claimants during this difficult time. This is further evidence of the ability of ABI and ACSO members to work together on practical solutions through this unprecedented event.”
Martin Milliner, claims director at LV=, said: “LV= is delighted to support these new ways of working. Collaboration has provided a way forward for injured claimants, to protect them and
the NHS from harms, whilst at the same time giving them the treatment and support that will help them get better sooner.”
Claims leaders have also welcomed the publication of the statement of intent. Barry Gray, managing director of Premier Medical Group, said: “Video examinations are an important step forward to help claimants and ensure there is no additional pressure on GPs’ surgeries. We hope these recommendations for temporary changes to our usual processes are adopted by all parties and look forward to making further progress with colleagues in the insurance industry.”
Joel Booth, chief governance and quality officer at rehabilitation provider Ascenti, and himself a qualified physiotherapist, said the rehabilitation elements of the statement of intent had been developed by Together for Rehabilitation, an industry group of rehabilitation providers of which he is a representative.
He said: “With the right safeguards in place and for this exceptional period only, remote physiotherapy and psychological treatment is acceptable in many cases, both for new patients and to continue treatment in existing cases. This agreement will be of great benefit in bringing injured people through their treatment quickly and successfully and will help prevent worse problems and higher costs in the long term.”
Matt Jarvis, managing director personal injury services at Slater and Gordon, said: “This is an important step forward in bringing the whole claims industry together at this challenging time. Where we can use technology, such as video conferencing, to reduce obstacles posed by the COVID-19 crisis, we should. Hopefully, this collaborative and technology-focused approach will continue once the coronavirus has been dealt with as it can benefit everyone.”
Turning to dispute resolution, the new temporary measures are aimed at preventing claims putting even further pressure on the courts and tribunal service at a time when they are operating a greatly reduced service because of the crisis. Measures include extending the negotiation period, using established escalation points and/or consider joint settlement meetings and/or use of independent barristers’ chambers to arbitrate a settlement.
Maxwell Scott said: “There is broad agreement that, for the time being, added flexibility to the usual processes is needed when the progression and/or settlement of a claim is clearly impacted. As an industry, we are all committed to progressing and settling consumers’ claims as quickly and as pragmatically as possible, so enabling them to get on with their lives at this very challenging time.”
To view the statement of intent in full, please visit: http://www.acso.org.uk