Britain's biggest general insurer is setting the pace, says Andy Cook

' What a week it has been for Norwich Union. Last Friday, NU picked up the general insurer of the year award at the Insurance Times Awards. For the second year running, brokers voted for NU in this category.

Three or four years ago, NU would have done well to win this award if it had been the last insurer in Britain. The change has been dramatic. No one is saying that brokers love NU - that would be stretching credibility too far. But, it seems, that there is respect. NU is seen as a solid business partner that lives up to its "open for business" mantra.

I also suspect that people in the industry are waking up to the fact that NU is living up to the responsibilities of being Britain's biggest general insurer.

Look at its achievements. While the government and others were talking around the issue of flooding, NU commissioned a detailed digital flood map, hiring a plane to fly over the UK with its ground-mapping radar.

Also NU has taken the plunge in the UK with Pay As You Drive insurance. This is where a black box, fitted to a policyholders car, transmits data back to NU about where, when and how the car is being driven. The high level of detail provided will enable NU to refine its underwriting and develop new products.

And just this week, NU has bravely challenged the personal injury community to think radically about rehabilitation. It has proposed that a financial incentive should be offered to claimants seeking rehabilitation and that a financial penalty should be imposed on those who do not seek or take up rehabilitation.

Is this just the kind of proposal needed to really kick-start rehabilitation? Time will tell, but bravo to NU for putting the proposal on the table. It has already canvassed opinion of government and, it seems, has not been discouraged.

One of the more contentious proposals would threaten the income of personal injury lawyers. NU proposes that for claims under £5,000 no legal costs would be recoverable.

A huge number of personal injury claims are below this ceiling and so personal injury lawyers would lose a large stream of income. I know that there would be few tears shed in our industry over this. But it is important not to be too harsh on personal injury lawyers.

Under the current Access to Justice rules, personal injury lawyers are the only hope of justice for many and to see them decimated, or worse, could radically alter the balance of justice in the UK.