The bodies concur that video examinations and rehabilitation services can be performed remotely

Trade associations the ABI and the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) have agreed a statement of intent, designed to maintain the personal injury claims process throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

The statement covers medical reports and examinations that fall outside of MedCo’s remit –the body responsible for overseeing the medical reporting for soft tissue injury claims.

In March, MedCo confirmed that remote video medical consultations are permissible for medical reporting, subject to adherence to its guidance, however the ABI and ACSO statement applies this principle to medical reports outside of MedCo’s bandwidth.

This includes being able to undertake medical examinations remotely by video. In many cases, rehabilitation, such as physiotherapy and psychotherapy, can also be performed remotely, however where this is not suitable, situations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Matthew Maxwell Scott, ACSO executive director, welcomed the statement as a vital step in ensuring injured people can access treatment during the coronavirus outbreak. “The onus is on insurers, claimant firms and the supply chain to help keep the wheels of justice turning at this difficult time so that injured people can get the medico-legal examinations and rehabilitation treatment they need,” he said.

“The more our industry can do on a shared, constructive basis the less pressure there will be on the NHS and the courts.”

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, added: “ABI members are committed to giving extra support and reassurance to customers and claimants during this difficult time. This is further evidence of the ability of ABI and ACSO members to work together on practical solutions through this unprecedented event.”

Dispute resolution

Furthermore, the statement of intent recommends that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) measures provide flexibility during this time, especially as courts and tribunal services face additional pressures. Insurers and law firms could, for example, extend the negotiation period by 10 working days, or use established escalation points, joint settlement meetings, or independent barristers’ chambers to arbitrate a settlement.

Maxwell Scott added: “There is broad agreement that, for the time being, added flexibility to the usual processes is needed when the progression or settlement of a claim is clearly impacted. As an industry, we are all committed to progressing and settling consumers’ claims as quickly and as pragmatically as possible, so enabling them to get on with their lives at this very challenging time.”

‘Great benefit’

The statement has been well-received across the personal injury claims sector.

Joel Booth, chief governance and quality officer at rehabilitation provider Ascenti, said: “With the right safeguards in place, for this exceptional period only, remote physiotherapy and psychological treatment is acceptable in many cases, both for new patients and to continue treatment in existing cases.

“This agreement will be of great benefit in bringing injured people through their treatment quickly and successfully and will help prevent worse problems and higher costs in the long term.”

Matt Jarvis, managing director, personal injury services at Slater and Gordon, added: “This is an important step forward in bringing the whole claims industry together at this challenging time.

“Where we can use technology, such as video conferencing, to reduce obstacles posed by the Covid-19 crisis, we should. Hopefully, this collaborative and technology-focused approach will continue once the coronavirus has been dealt with as it can benefit everyone.”

LV= is one of the insurers supporting the joint statement of intent.

Martin Milliner, claims director at LV=, said: “LV= is delighted to support these new ways of working. Collaboration has provided a way forward for injured claimants, to protect them and the NHS from harms, whilst at the same time giving them the treatment and support that will help them get better sooner.”