Just over a quarter (26%) of defendants are using Covid-19 as an excuse to stall brain injury claims, despite guidelines urging the parties to take a consensual approach, research has suggested.
It also found that brain injury rehabilitation has been driven to crisis point by a ‘perfect Covid-19 storm’.
Hundreds of insurers and law firms have signed up to a protocol agreed by the Association of British Insurers and claimant firm Thompsons aimed at cutting out opportunistic tactics by either claimants or defendants, while the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and Forum of Insurance Lawyers published an agreed set of “standard practices” to aid communication during the pandemic.
But the survey of 161 claimant brain injury solicitors – conducted by Exchange Chambers and brain injury charity Calvert Reconnections – indicates that a substantial minority are not playing ball.
Bill Braithwaite QC, head of Exchange Chambers and a trustee at Calvert Reconnections, said: “While it’s encouraging that the majority of lawyers are following the best practice guidelines, it’s disappointing that others are using Covid-19 as a stalling tactic.”
This was particularly given that an earlier, pre Covid-19 study the pair conducted found that claimant and defendant representatives were more willing than ever to work together for the good of injured people, with solicitors believing greater cooperation by insurers has been the greatest advance over the past three years.
The new survey reported that 89% of claimant solicitors believed rehabilitation standards have dropped as a result of the pandemic, with 92% saying brain injury rehabilitation was going to be more reliant than ever on the private and charitable sectors.
But, seven in 10 solicitors said charities were being forced to cut back on support measures for brain injured patients as a result of financial Covid-19 pressures.
While virtual rehabilitation has become commonplace in recent months, there are doubts over its long-term viability, with 63% expressing concerns over its effectiveness.
Mr Braithwaite said: “Covid-19 has driven brain injury rehabilitation to crisis point. The NHS is overwhelmed and charities are under severe financial pressure. It is the perfect storm. While virtual rehabilitation has plugged the gap, it is not a long-term solution.”
Calvert Reconnections has developed what it says is the UK’s first Covid-19 compliant brain injury rehabilitation programme combining traditional clinical therapies with physical activity in the outdoors.