'One-size-fits-all' approach causing difficulties in agreeing new protocol

The issue of rehabilitation has emerged as one of a number of potential stumbling blocks to the agreement of a code of practice for dealing with higher value personal injury claims.

The code, which is currently in draft form, has been put together by a working party of claimant and insurer lawyers as well as insurance company representatives.

It is designed to speed up the claims process by highlighting at an earlier stage the main issues and potential areas of agreement between claimant and insurers' lawyers. It will apply to complex personal injury claims or those over £50,000 in value - known as 'multi-track' claims.

Insurers say the code could streamline the claims process for higher value claims and ultimately reduce their legal costs.

But, following a meeting in which the draft code was presented to representatives of the major UK insurers, a number of issues have emerged that could hamper agreement between insurers and claimant lawyers.

AXA claims director David Williams highlighted three areas where insurers were "struggling" to achieve agreement. These, he said, were the issues of rehabilitation, the use of single joint experts and dispute resolution

On rehabilitation, Williams said the problem was the "nature of it and how it should link to volume claims".

Dominic Clayden, head of technical claims at Norwich Union agreed that rehabilitation was an issue. "It needs clarity around that," he said.

Clayden added that while the code worked for the most serious injuries, work needed to be done to make it work for smaller value claims.

Neil McLaughlin, president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers, who has been involved in the development of the draft code, admitted there was a "difficulty" in the "one-size-fits-all" nature of the code. But he added that the recent meeting with insurer representatives was "productive" and that the code was "moving forward".

A spokeswoman for the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers said the draft of the code had been circulated to the executive committee and was currently under discussion.