MoJ reforms spark insurance revolution

Norwich Union and Royal & SunAlliance are reviewing their panels in anticipation of a Ministry of Justice overhaul of the PI claims system.

The UK’s leading insurers Norwich Union and Royal & SunAlliance are reviewing their defendant panels in anticipation of a radical Ministry of Justice (MoJ) overhaul of the personal injury claims system.

The changes will force law firms to make multimillion-pound investments in technology and people to meet new deadlines aimed at speeding up the system and driving down legal costs.

Henry Bermingham, president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers and a partner at Berrymans Lace Mawer, said: “The process review will either mean that the insurers will turn it around within the timeframes specified, or they could outsource pre-litigation work to solicitors.”

The reforms could open up a whole new multimillion-pound market for pre­litigation services.

Morgan Cole insurance partner Elizabeth Carr said: “Each defendant firm is in the process of resourcing up.”

Carr said some insurers could look to outsource claims to solicitors, who would investigate liability on their behalf.
Hugh James director of insurance Hugh Price said his firm is already handling pre-litigation claims. “We’ve been able to use technology in pre-litigation,” he said. “We intend to grow that area because we think insurers are going to struggle and will look to outsource their claims to lawyers.”

Norwich Union’s legal panel review is its first in five years. It currently uses 40 firms, including Beachcroft, Berrymans Lace Mawer, Hugh James, Keoghs and Morgan Cole.
Technical claims director Dominic Clayden told The Lawyer: “It is, in part, anticipating the MoJ review. We’ll be engaging with our solicitors at a much earlier point, particularly in disputed cases.”

The MoJ is currently considering 300 responses to the consultation on the changes that propose lawyers will have to notify insurers of claims much earlier and insurers will have just weeks to admit or dispute liability. Currently there are no timeframes and claimants can bring claims up to three years after the accident. It takes an average of three years to settle claims.