Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in minor personal injury claims will eventually become the standard means of finalising cases where settlement cannot be reached directly with the insurer, according to Minster Law CEO Shirley Woolham.
Shirley’s comments came after the Yorkshire law firm released its preliminary findings from an ADR pilot study. The pilot ran during March and April and was conducted with a UK Tier One insurer in partnership with Nuvalaw, a technology company that has developed a claims resolution platform offering negotiation tools and quality-assured ODR. Arbitrations are provided by Trust Mediation.
39 claims were settled during the ADR pilot, and all were for minor injuries following a Road Traffic Accident (RTA), including rehabilitation. Claims were settled within an average of 2.5 working days, with the quickest settlement time being just 24 hours.
Of the claims in the pilot, all but one settled above the final offer of the insurer. The highest award was for £5,167, the lowest for £2,100. The latest MoJ statistics found that the average time taken for small claims and multi- or fast-track claims to go to trial was 51 weeks and 73 weeks, which is 14 and 13 weeks longer than the same period in 2019 respectively.
Shirley said: “The point of settlement is to allow injured people to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible. That simply can’t happen if they have to wait over a year for their case to come to Court.”
“Our pilot shows that ADR delivers justice quickly, so it makes sense for customers but also for insurers and for law firms, and it means our courts can focus on more challenging issues.”
CLAIMSPACE EXPERIENCE ON ADR
Claimspace, part of handl Group, which has run the independent pilot scheme in conjunction with Verisk, has successfully processed over 100 cases through to settlement, with three participating law firms, including Slater and Gordon and two insurers. The programme started in January 2021 and is still running. Other law firms and insurers are in the process of signing up, according to Stewart McCulloch, managing director of Claimspace.
McCulloch said that users had reported average Claimspace awards being in line with MoJ stage three averages awarded at court. Comparison between Claimspace awards and insurers’ final offers are also consistent with industry standards achieved at court. On costs, McCulloch said that ADR has proven to significantly cut costs for insurers without penalising law firms, which he believed would accelerate take up in the industry.
“In an average case the at fault insurer has to pay court fees, solicitor’s costs and advocacy (barristers’) costs of around £1700. ADR removes the requirement for advocacy, which is outsourced and therefore cash neutral for law firms, of around £600.”
“It is a no-brainer for insurers and law firms alike,” he said, adding: “As well as driving down costs, Claimspace ADR clears reserves for insurers. It provides a significant cash flow advantage to the claimant law firm as cases are taking less than a week to conclude compared to around twelve months for court cases. We’ve also found that it improves the customer journey, whether fault or non-fault.”
Commenting on the pilot, Matt Jarvis, Managing Director of Personal Injury at Slater and Gordon, said: “This ADR pilot shows how the legal and insurances sectors can work together to help people get justice. We’re focused on delivering the best possible process and outcome for customers, and that means looking for new ways of resolving problems.
“ADR is a solution for cases which would otherwise have had go through a the court process. At the best of times can be time consuming, costly and frustrating for customers, but delays and disruption caused by covid has made that even worse, so this successful trial couldn’t have been more timely.”