I am fairly sure that most dedicated personal injury lawyers are pretty
fed up with being called “ambulance chasers”. We know that although our
objective is to obtain fair compensation for our injured clients, the idea is
that this will, so far as possible, help them to get back to some form of
The first version of the Rehabilitation Code came about as long ago as
1999 and was then updated in 2007. We now have the Rehabilitation Code 2015 and
it is an important tool in the toolkit of all personal injury lawyers. For
those not familiar with what it is all about, the time has come to learn and
make use of it because of the immense potential benefit to all clients no
matter what the severity of their injury.
The 2015 Code is a much expanded version of those which came before it.
The injured client is put at the centre of the process and the need for rehabilitation
is addressed as a priority. The claimant’s lawyer and compensator are to work
together on a collaborative basis to address the injured claimant’s needs from
the very beginning, with an expected early notification of the claim and
exchange of information.
The Code, unlike its predecessors, is designed in a way which addresses
the differing considerations that might apply to injuries of different
complexity, specifically those valued at less than £25,000, medium, and
catastrophic injuries. That being said, there is recognition that even injuries
in which the financial values are low might be life changing.
Rehabilitation having been recognised as a priority, time frames are set
out in the Code and there are provisions designed to ensure that an assessment
of needs is carried out by somebody suitably qualified. The way in which that
is done will again be dictated by the severity of the injury and the needs.
Although it is possible for the assessor or indeed any subsequently
appointed case manager to be instructed jointly, the claimant through their
representative has the ultimate say, as claimant practitioners will rightly
wish, and the claimant is not obliged to undergo any recommended treatment.
There is an accompanying guide to the appointment of case managers,
which is technically not part of the Code, and appointed case managers are to seek
to work proactively with NHS clinicians.
The compensator pays for agreed rehabilitation needs and is able to
justify a refusal to follow reasonable recommendations. There may be a
battleground there. It is intended that the principles of the Code will apply
throughout the lifetime of the case, compared to earlier versions which
concentrated very much on what happens at the outset.
APIL is doing its very best through initiatives such as the
Rehabilitation Code and the Guide to the Conduct of Cases Involving Serious
Injury to show that claimant lawyers are prepared to be collaborative in order
to do the most important thing; that is to act in the best interests of our
injured clients. It is to be hoped that insurers and their lawyers with whom we
have worked hard to put these mechanisms in place work with us to adhere to
their spirit. The time has come for APIL members to embrace and make use of
them so we can show that collaboration is not for want of trying on our part.
Perhaps then, that “ambulance chasing” label might somehow find its way into
the bin when people realise what we really do for injured people – help them to
put their lives back on track.