Today the Case Management Society UK will be launched in Manchester, in an attempt to stem the rising cost of personal injury claims, reports Christine Seib....

Losing the use of your legs is a nightmare, no matter where in the world you live. But where you live does make a difference to whether you are likely to return to full-time employment, or will have to rely on financial aid to survive.

Workers who become paraplegic as a result of an accident in Scandinavia have a 50% chance of returning to full-time employment. Workers who become paraplegic in the US have a 32% chance. Yet, in the UK, the return rate is only 14%.

One of the reasons for the UK's poor record is the fragmentation of the services offered to victims of serious injuries: there are 28 separate agencies with which they must deal while recovering, ranging from medical groups for physical recovery to local authorities for changes to the home environment.

Last year the International Underwriting Association (IUA), in conjunction with the Association of British Insurers (ABI), produced a report on body injury awards. It found that, the quicker rehabilitation was available to an injured person following an accident, the better their recovery and the greater the likelihood of their returning to a normal lifestyle.

Speedy rehabilitation also holds benefits for insurers and the ones that have taken action are reaping the benefits. Injury claims have been rising at twice the rate of general inflation since 1997. Yet AIG claims that its subsidiary AIG Medical & Rehabilitation has brought it a net claims saving of 20%. Iron Trades said its Employee Care scheme would provide savings of 15% to 20%. Zurich Commercial estimated its injury care programme has saved 15%.

Practice makes perfect
It is recognised that one of the most important elements of fast, effective rehabilitation is case management, which was highlighted by the IUA's Rehabilitation Working Party in last year's report. The report established a voluntary code of practice and a guide to rehabilitation for insurers and solicitors dealing with personal injury. A key part of the code required insurers to consider rehabilitation at the outset of a claim, rather than waiting until damages are agreed.

A case manager acts as an advocate for the injured person, helping them deal with the 28 bodies mentioned earlier, during their recovery. Following the release of the code, Bodily Injuries Claim Management Association (BICMA) chairman Norman Cottington bought a UK franchise from the International Case Management Society and began talking up the idea to healthcare professionals, insurers and lawyers.

Cottington, a motor insurance claims manager for 25 years, said a regulatory body was desperately needed after the release of the code.

"It's one thing to tell people what should be done, its another thing to do it," he said.

The Case Management Society (CMS UK) launched today at a non-profit conference in Manchester aimed at rehabilitation professionals and those dealing with rehabilitation claims. A CMS UK working party was established earlier this year, with representatives from insurers and loss adjusters Crawfords, THG, AIG, Swiss Re, Munich Re and Property & Casualty Services and interest groups Injury Care Clinics and Rehab without Walls on the steering committee. Elections for office holders and the committee will be held soon.

CMS UK's remit is to set, monitor and promote professional standards for case managers – something that doesn't exist at present, except in the case of brain injuries– with standards adapted from the Case Management Society of America.

Steering committee member and AIG Medical Rehabilitation manager Helen Merfield said CMS UK would help plug the gaping hole in the way the UK cared for injured people once they were out of the acute phase.

"The UK's record for helping injury victims return to work and live full lives is way behind other western countries. Everyone suffers as a result: the injured person, their family, their employers and society as a whole," she said.

She added that insurers were extremely supportive of the society: "They recognise that the best deal for their client is more than just money – its getting them the best treatment for the best outcome possible."