Early results indicate time saved in settling claims

AXA's million pound project to assess the impact of rehabilitation on whiplash injuries is showing a positive effect from the treatment.

Early indications a quarter of the way through the trial suggest that rehabilitation is reducing claims settlement times. But it has not reduced claims settlements or legal fees.

Under the study, which began in September last year, whiplash victims are passed over to trained rehabilitation nurses and physiotherapists from the occupational health division of the insurer's private healthcare arm, AXA PPP.

The insurer has now begun making outbound calls to accident victims who have yet to claim to identify early potential treatment candidates.

Dr Mark Simpson, managing director of AXA PPP Occupational Health Services, said a reduction in claims settlement costs "may come in time" but that this was not the original intention of the scheme.

Simpson said the amount of resistance from claimant lawyers to the proposal was "greater than anticipated".

But he said the number of referrals was increasing as claims handlers became "more comfortable" at dealing with the claimants' legal advisers. To date 400 cases have progressed through the project, with 50 being settled.

A decision on whether to roll out the pilot to other motor and public liability claims will be made after 200 cases have been closed. This is expected to happen within the next six months.

Last week, Highway completed its three-year study on the cost benefits of rehabilitation, finding similar results to AXA.

Earlier in the year, Norwich Union revealed that it would be extending its major rehabilitation study after finding "tangible benefits" from the treatment.