New process will cut out lawyers and offer hotline advice to claimants

Norwich Union's (NU) whiplash claims process is to get an overhaul aimed at putting rehabilitation back on the company's agenda.

This comes just weeks after the insurer acquired Rehabilitation UK.

It is understood that NU's legal costs bill will drop dramatically after the new process is implemented because claimant lawyers will be cut from the loop as the insurer begins to make direct contact with the claimant.

Third party claimants will be given the opportunity to accept advice from a rehabilitation hotline.

Clinically trained call handlers will be able to deliver a personal rehabilitation programme over the phone. If the claimant then requires physiotherapy it will be arranged via Physiotherapy Networks.

The ABI estimates that 40% of each compensation reward is handed over to claimant lawyers. A spokesman for NU said the average award stood at approximately £2,000, meaning that £500 of that figure is spent on legal costs.

This move is expected to come as a blow to claimant lawyers who will no longer be able to cash in.

Dominic Clayden, director of technical claims at NU, said "This repositions how people see insurance companies when they have an inury. They don't always need a lawyer."

NU said it reviewed the treatment of hundreds of whiplash injuries to establish a best practice protocol using evidence-based medicine (EBM). It will be working with Rehabilitation UK and a university-based academic team to offer rehabilitation treatment.

Clayden said: "We would like to see rehabilitation at the heart of the compensation process and more willing engagement with claimants and their representatives focusing on all stakeholders on the injured person's quick recovery rather than the size of a cheque."

According to the insurer its pilot has achieved positive clinical outcomes including speedier recovery, and the time to settle claims under £5,000 has reduced by two thirds.

NU currently handles 50,000 whiplash claims a year, about 80% of its total bodily injury claims volume.