Insurance companies should improve their readiness for the Woolf reforms or risk “chaos” and a return to “trench warfare” between the insurance industry and personal injury lawyers, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil) is warning.
But insurers say they are baffled by the remarks, insisting they are fighting alongside everyone else to meet Woolf's tight April deadlines.
Apil president Ian Walker says the “huge, dumbed-down claims departments” in big insurance companies will be unable to adapt to the new system and respond to claims within three months dictated by the pre-action protocols.
“Inexperienced, untrained clerks will come up with stupid decisions. They need to hire experienced people and train more or there will be chaos for some time,” he says.
“The new rules are going to force us to co-operate more. We want to embrace [the reforms], but we can't do it on our own,” Walker adds.
An Association of British Insurers spokesman thinks the concerns “a bit wide of the mark”, saying claims that go to court are a company's most serious and are handled by its most senior staff.
He adds that insurance staff have even had training and guidance from some law firms.
Leading insurers such as CGU Insurance say they have projects in place and are confident that appropriate procedures will be “up and running before the deadline”.