Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Call for speedier injury claims

Woman with sore neck.
Insurers want the government to implement its own proposals soon

The insurance industry has renewed its call for the government to bring in a faster system for settling personal injury claims.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said the current system is too slow and is dogged by high legal costs.

It said if proposals made last year by the government were implemented, then claims could be settled much faster.

The ABI said that the average motor accident personal injury claim took 730 days to settle.

Stephen Hadrill, director general of the ABI, said workplace claims took up to three years to settle.

"What tends to happen is that a person who has been injured goes to a lawyer who does a vast amount of research, often unnecessarily in our opinion, before putting the claim anywhere near the insurer," he said.

"There is then a process of negotiation over liability and settlement in a very adversarial system."

There were 250,000 personal injury claims last year associated with car crashes, with 80% being non-contentious.

The ABI believes that they could be dealt with in a quarter of the current time.

New system

A year ago the government suggested that a new time scale should be introduced for such claims.

The guy who has been injured is kind of encouraged to stay off work
Stephen Hadrill, ABI

Under that proposal, lawyers would have five days after being contacted by a claimant to let insurers know that a claim might be made.

Insurers would have 15 days for a motor claim and 30 days for a workplace or public liability claim to decide if they were going to settle or not.

And if a settlement could not be agreed, then the case would go to a district judge for a decision.

Mr Hadrill said this would be very much to the benefit of claimants.

"The guy who has been injured is kind of encouraged to stay off work, doesn't get back to work so quickly, possibly ends up on incapacity benefit, and the whole system fails him," he said.

The ABI's call for the government to get a move on has been supported by employer's organisation the CBI, and Citizens Advice.

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