Around 317 firms have agreed to the terms of the protocol so far

A legal protocol designed to protect access to justice for personal injury claimants during the Covid-19 pandemic has been extended for a further four weeks, until at least 20 May 2020.

The ‘Coronavirus (Covid-19) Personal Injury Protocol’, developed by the ABI and personal injury specialist law firm Thompsons Solicitors, initially launched on 24 March. It aims to mitigate any practical or procedural opportunism presented by circumstances arising from the coronavirus outbreak, calling for flexibility across all parties to enable the UK justice system to continue smoothly while the national lockdown remains in force and home working is the new norm.

The protocol was originally designed to be in place until 14 April, however this has now been extended to 20 May after proving effective in helping both defendant and claimant personal injury solicitors, as well as insurers, mitigate the impact of coronavirus on their work.

To date, 279 law firms and 38 insurance companies have committed to adhere to the terms of the protocol; signatories can show their support for the initiative via the ABI’s website.

The protocol that continues in effect is as follows:

1. An agreement that all limitation dates in all personal injury cases are frozen and claimants undertake to respond constructively to defendant requests for extension of time to serve a defence.

2. An escalation process whereby any issue arising by a party’s failure to act in accordance with the agreement in 1. above and which cannot immediately be resolved between the parties is referred to an email and/or telephone ‘hotline’ specifically established for this situation.

3. A commitment that the email and telephone hotline will be monitored regularly and referred to senior people within the respective organisations who will be able to make a swift decision as to whether the stance being taken should be adjusted in light of prevailing circumstances.

Access to justice

A joint review on the scheme is set to commence on 13 May; the industry hopes that by this point, formal instructions may have been released by the Lord Chief Justice’s office.

Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Since we launched the protocol at the end of March, it has secured backing from hundreds of organisations and is proving effective in protecting access for justice for injured claimants during these testing times. We set out to ensure the protocol was embraced industry-wide, and that’s exactly what we’ve achieved.

“What we’ve shown is that we – and many others both in law and insurance – are prepared to work collaboratively for the greater good, setting aside historical differences.

“We hope that this commitment to keeping access to justice for innocent claimants front of mind continues beyond lockdown and that sharp practice ‘point scoring’ is something both industries reflect on before they return to the fray.”

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, added: “We are pleased that the protocol has been extended. The growing number of signatories demonstrates the commitment of insurers to work with others to ensure that claimants get the help and support they need during this worrying and uncertain time.”