The updated Rehabiliation Code is set to come into operation on 1 December and for the first time includes a separate section for lower-value claims in recognition of the need for a more streamlined process in cases worth less than £25,000.
This is the third revision of the code, which was originally published in 1999 to promote the use of rehabilitation when settling personal injury insurance claims and provide a framework in which insurers and claimant lawyers can collaborate to consider the health needs of injured people.
Although voluntary, the code is attached to the pre-action protocol and its author – a joint working party organised by the International Underwriting Association and Association of British Insurance and supported by claimant lawyers groups – said research has consistently shown it to be “well established and widely used by claims handlers, personal injury lawyers and providers of rehabilitation services”.
The new version  follows a year-long consultation. Although it is for the parties to decide when and how to use the code, it is envisaged that it should become operational from 1 December.
The code recognises that lower-value claims have different dynamics, and that there will sometimes be a medical need for claimant solicitors to arrange treatment before getting agreement from the compensator. In these circumstances, it says the compensator is not obliged to pay for treatment that is unnecessary, disproportionate or unduly expensive.
Further, in the interests of streamlining the process, most lower-value claims will require a triage report only.
Another innovation with this version is publication of a guide for rehabilitation case managers and people who commission them, which is separate from the code but intended to complement it. It is in response to concern expressed by insurers and claimant lawyers about the outcome of some rehabilitation cases.
Working party chair Mark Baylis said: “This new version is a big improvement, whilst remaining true to the principles of the original code that all parties should work together to help claimants recover as quickly and completely as possible from their injuries. The case managers’ guide fills a widely recognised gap, and has been warmly supported by those who have seen it.”
Amanda Stevens, the former president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers who chaired the project steering group that oversaw the code review, said: “It is heartening that, in a decade that has seen wholesale change to the way in which injury claims are litigated, rehabilitation has not only been retained as a centre-piece in the process, but has actually emerged with a stronger reputation and applicability.
“This latest code will make rehabilitation delivery even more effective as it is better aligned with current working practices. I hope and believe it will facilitate yet more fantastic examples of what can be achieved when the parties work collaboratively to put the injured person at the centre of the process.”