The protocol aimed at cutting out opportunistic tactics by either claimants or defendants in personal injury (PI) cases during the Covid-19 pandemic has been extended to at least 20 May.
Some 335 law firms and 105 insurance companies have so far signed up to the protocol, which was put together by leading claimant firm Thompsons and the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
Launched on 24 March with 22 signatories, it was initially designed to be in place until 14 April but has been extended in light of the lockdown continuing and the protocol proving effective.
The protocol provides:
- An agreement that all limitation dates in all PI cases are frozen and claimants undertake to respond constructively to defendant requests for extension of time to serve a defence;
- An escalation process whereby any issue arising by a party’s failure to act in accordance with this, and which cannot immediately be resolved between the parties, is referred to an email and/or telephone ‘hotline’ specifically established for this situation; and
- A commitment that the email and telephone hotline will be monitored regularly and referred to senior people within the respective organisations who will be able to make a swift decision as to whether the stance being taken should be adjusted in light of prevailing circumstances.
Tom Jones, Thompsons’ head of policy, said: “We set out to ensure the protocol was embraced industry-wide, and that’s exactly what we’ve achieved.
“What we’ve shown is that we – and many others both in law and insurance – are prepared to work collaboratively for the greater good, setting aside historical differences.
“We hope that this commitment to keeping access to justice for innocent claimants front of mind continues beyond lockdown, and that sharp practice ‘point scoring’ is something both industries reflect on before they return to the fray.”
James Dalton, the ABI’s director of general Insurance policy, said: “The growing number of signatories demonstrates the commitment of insurers to work with others to ensure that claimants get the help and support they need during this worrying and uncertain time.”
A further review will take place in the week commencing 13 May.
Meanwhile, the agreed set of “standard practices” issued jointly by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) – to aid communication during the pandemic – has also been extended to 20 May.
This says that personal injury firms should temporarily agree to accept service by email and freeze limitation periods.