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A blog from Minster Law CEO, Shirley Woolham 

Covid-19 has made protocols newly fashionable, certainly in claims. Protocols are making a virtue of necessity, and if successful will remove pinch-points and blockages in the claims journey to keep the industry and our customers going through the lockdown and beyond.

Market players are learning fast how to collaborate. Collaboration runs counter to the adversarial foundations of our civil justice system. But Covid-19 has not only forced our industry to re-engineer our operating models, it is now making us re-think how we behave.

In truth, collaborative models are not new. Many insurers and claims services suppliers have had good working relationships for a while and, at Minster Law, these have evolved into genuine partnerships that reduce friction, build trust and improve the customer journey. Note to industry: we all share the same customers.

In credit hire, the GTA, a voluntary protocol that insurers and credit hire companies use to manage replacement vehicle motor claims, has been in existence since 1999, and is a force for good in bringing more order to a sector which ten years ago had a reputation for ultra-aggressive tactics.

Now, the ABI personal injury protocol, created during the last two weeks, has been signed by around 150 law firms. It’s not perfect, but it will surely be adapted and amended to enhance its effectiveness.

An ACSO-led initiative has agreed changes to non-Medco reporting and rehabilitation, building on work already done by Medco itself. The prime objective is to move medical reports and rehabilitation to remote operating, so ensuring injured people can settle their claim and, more importantly, continue to receive treatment they need, rather than use the NHS.

Protocol signatories have been careful to stress that these are temporary measures to help the industry survive through Covid-19, but I disagree. Once the genie of collaboration is fully out of the bottle it can’t be stoppered.

And it is self-evidently in the interests of customers that collaboration is nurtured. If the claims industry as a whole had agreed a protocol for the personal injury reforms, there would have been no need for government intervention, and resulting legislation which has created a multitude of problems that risk customer detriment..

Now it’s been confirmed that the LiP portal will be delayed until next year, we should use the extra time and the precedents set by the new protocols to rethink what we’re trying to do. If we can compromise on PI claims now, as well as medical reporting and rehab, why not the whiplash reforms, or clinical negligence, or the nature of compensation itself, where the principle of money-based redress has caused decades of venality and poor behaviour.

The current crisis threatens the status quo…. but it threatens it in a good way as well as bad. Of course, many businesses are understandably worried about their survival if the lockdown continues, but the preservation instinct has generated very different approaches to problem-solving which are hugely exciting for the future.

After wars finished, collaborators usually met a sticky end. The word still has a pejorative meaning, but only if you view our business as a binary conflict between implacable enemies.

I urge the whole of the claims industry to see ourselves and what we do through a different lens. It might just give us a clue as to how we will conduct business when this is all over.

– Shirley