"Compensation without complication," the advert said on Talk Sport this morning.
Maybe it's my choice of listening and viewing, but I can't get through 15 minutes it seems without being told : "Where there is blame there is a claim." Or that I should: "Call Paul" who has extracted millions of pounds for people already. These ads tend to fuel my poorly-disguised despair at the nightmare created by the good intentions of the Access to Justice Act. But they also signal that the time has come to stop whingeing and get out there and do something about it.I feel that the ad on Talk Sport accurately describes what we as an industry should be looking for.When I look at the figures spent on legal services, I can't help but think there has to be a better way of doing things. Couple that with the average length of time in reaching settlement, and I see a problem in need of an urgent fix.
Fixed feesPositive statements are made about rehabilitation, but then so much time is spent arguing over legal liability that any opportunity for medical intervention has passed. So what has changed now? The advent of predictable (fixed) fees for one, and the more astute claims farmers will realise that transferring earnings from padded fees to disbursements will be found out soon enough.The real way to remain in business will be to create a model that handles claims more quickly and efficiently, not in any way reducing the level of damages for the injured party.If the Arculus report into the personal injury claims system is a call for us to be more collaborative and the advent of fixed fees is the more direct signal that it is time for change, what can we do about it? Is there really any point in pontificating on what needs to be done? Well yes there is. We need 'suggestions', we need the combined wisdom of the industry, and we need this from both sides if it is truly to work.
Set of rulesWhatever the best way forward, it needs to be done in collaboration with those representing third parties. If we can agree a 'better' way forward, with an appropriate set of rules which both sides see as bringing benefit, then we really can begin to make meaningful changes. Yes, I would love for there to be no such thing as claims farmers, but the genie is out of the lamp and there is no way it's going back in. Now is the time for action. There will be some quick wins and some aspects that will take a lot longer, but the desire to change is beginning to appear. We won't be able to insist that everyone 'plays by the rules', but we can do a good job of making clear the risks of playing with someone who doesn't comply. Compensation without complication? - I hope so. IT ' David Williams is claims director at AXA Insurance