This week I attended a meeting to review the success of the Multi Track Code pilot for dealing with catastrophic injuries in excess of £250,000. The meeting was a culmination of years of work to positively improve the experience of the catastrophically injured person when pursuing a legal claim. It has been joint work between APIL, FOIL and a number of key insurers, with both sides of the industry working together in a collaborative manner to deliver the best result. The code shows what can be achieved when claimant lawyers, defendant lawyers and insurers work together and trust each other to do the right thing for the claimant. Openness, respect, good behaviour and a positive attitude are core to its success.
The benefits to the injured person have been many:
- Positive joint working – it feels a lot less adversarial
- Early admissions of liability allow the claimant to gain peace of mind
- Improved cash flow through speedier interim payments
- Fewer cases go to court as the spirit of negotiation runs throughout the code
- Damages remain unaffected
But the biggest benefit of all to the catastrophically injured person is the provision of early rehabilitation after an early assessment of needs. Rehabilitation is so important to catastrophically injured clients – it enables them to get their life back on track whilst they are still in a relatively positive state of mind. Early rehabilitation also delivers a much better level of recovery than delaying rehabilitation until later in the case.
Doing a better job for the injured person is a core principle of APIL. However, the Multi Track Code has had an equally beneficial effect for both the lawyer and the insurer. The high level contact that lawyers are able to obtain from the insurer has led to speedy and informed discussions. No longer do lawyers need to spend 20 minutes trying to navigate through insurance helplines to speak to the right person. The single point of contact has led to a more efficient process.Also contributing to this are agreed timetables throughout the case, and the importance of route planning.
The earlier admissions of liability and the positive working, in particular the provision of a case manager by the insurance companies, has led to better client experiences throughout the case.
There appears no doubt that cases proceeding through the code proceed quicker and therefore cost less. One insurer gave anecdotal evidence to say that his company had two very similar cases, one within the code, and one outside of the code to markedly different effects. Both had settled for a similar level of damages, however the one that took place within the code settled twice as quickly and for only a third of the costs of the other case. Whilst this is anecdotal evidence, both solicitors and insurers have commented on how much easier it is to run these cases within the code.
Attendees at the review meeting had much to say. Parallels were drawn between the RTA Portal and the Multi Track Code as both aim to address the behaviour and the attitude of the lawyers and solicitors within the process, and both lead to earlier admissions. Collaborative working clearly delivers results. The Multi Track Code also discourages tactical behaviour with no Part 36 offers exchanging hands until sufficient information has been ascertained in order that both sides can understand the level of severity.
Obviously not all cases have been problem free. Discussions need to be progressed as to how to deal with blockers – in a small number of cases disagreements have arisen between the claimant lawyers and the insurers – for example, a dispute over the timing of settlement.
The application of the code is obviously more difficult in areas where liability is disputed, and proper consultation on the mechanics of the code must be undertaken before it moves to an authorative position. Whilst the code needs to have teeth, it is important that it does not become adversarial again. Where liability is seriously in dispute, an insurer is unlikely to agree to use the code. However, it is possible to have a route plan through liability issues. This enables the claimant lawyer and the defence lawyer to run the spirit of the code whilst resolving liability in a sensible way. This is about attitude. There was great majority support for using the code even where liability is in dispute.
Next steps are to get more lawyers across the country to begin to use the code. Sir Rupert Jackson is a very strong supporter of the code and would wish to encourage greater take up. He took the opportunity at the meeting to ask the insurers represented if they have the resources to process every case under the code should that be the situation in the future. The insurers present felt that it would be possible to resource this. Sir Rupert also questioned if the code applied to cases over £100,000 rather than £250,000 whether insurers would still be able to resource it. Feedback from the insurers was that as cases settled quicker and productivity is improved they would certainly agree to resource it in spirit although numbers may need to be improved before they could deliver that service in practice. The claimant lawyers present said they would certainly be willing to commend the code more widely for use wherever the client agrees.
Those involved will now work together to launch the code officially in 2012. The code is highly beneficial and lawyers and insurers on both sides need encouraging to take it forward. It is about learning to think differently to put the injured person at the heart of the process. APIL would commend it to all our members.