Pre-action protocols are 'a total failure'

A GOVERNMENT pilot of “pre-action protocols” which has been running among nine personal injury firms and six insurers since October has been denounced as a “total failure” by firms participating in it.

The pilot is based on the use of protocols which set out deadlines for responses from insurance companies and require them to give plaintiff lawyers access to certain documents.

The Lord Chancellor's Department intends to publish drafts of the protocols in July without evaluating the pilot – due to finish in August – and to make the protocols enforceable next April.

But firms involved – including Nottingham firm Thompsons and Pattinson & Brewer and Howe & Co in London – claim insurance company employees know little of the pilot and refuse to co-operate.

Twigg Farnell partner Paul Graham said his firm “hadn't had one successful protocol claim” and that few insurance company employees “know what the protocol scheme is”.

Thompsons lawyer Nigel Tomkins claimed the scheme was “worthless” unless sanctions were imposed on unco-operative insurers, and argued: “It is pointless running a pilot if there is no valuation at the end.”

But the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, told delegates at last week's Association of Personal Injury Lawyers' spring conference: “The indications so far are that the pre-action protocol will be a success.”

The pilot covers personal injury areas, except occupational disease. Companies involved include General Accident, Iron Trades Insurance Company, Norwich Union Insurance and Guardian Insurance.