Sandy Maxwell says the war of words at our recent personal injury conference doesn't help claimants

' Insurers have been unfairly maligned in the personal injury claims process. Last week's Insurance Times conference confirmed once again the distrust that exists between different parties in the process.

All the stakeholders - insurers, claims management companies, lawyers and consumer groups - tend to blame each other for delays and cost hikes.

So why does the average small claim of less than £2,500 take 700-800 days, with the costs outweighing the amount paid out?

When rehabilitation specialists like HCML's Helen Merfield talk about "apparently disproportionate outcome" (ADO), whereby individual perceptions of pain differ, it's not just the more reactionary brokers who roll their eyes. ADO might be a genuine syndrome, rather than just malingering, but how are insurers supposed to factor different perceptions of pain into the premium?

And claimant lawyer Tom Jones threw a grenade into the mix by telling delegates that insurers and defendant lawyers actively resist settlement to avoid paying out.

But AXA's David Williams is right - the longer a case takes, the more expensive it is for insurers. Protracted claims lifecycles actually cost the industry and fast-tracking claims is in everyone's interests.

Association of Personal Injury Lawyers president Richard Langton predictably stonewalled when asked if his association would advise its members to stop buying claims from dodgy claims management companies (CMCs). Many of these rogue firms survive only because law firms are prepared to buy claims with no questions asked.

So initiatives such as Claimsense and InterResolve are to be commended for suggesting transparent, structured solutions to the current impasse.

The next step is for the industry to stop playing the blame game and work together to clamp down on rogue CMCs, support legal processes that genuinely benefit claimants rather than line the pockets of lawyers, forgo referral fees, encourage independent rehabilitation and improve the expertise and professionalism of their claims handlers. And that doesn't mean outsourcing more jobs to India. IT

' Read the complete report of the Future of Personal Injury Claims conference in next week's issue and see our upcoming online minisite with full conference transcripts and breaking claims news