Is it just a pipe dream, asks Owen Tudor
One day, when someone is injured at work, they should be able to get home from their doctor or hospital, sit down at their PC or phone, and call up a new technology solution to their claim.
Whether they access their union website directly or phone a union call centre which will do it for them, smart software should prompt them through a claims form that captures all the necessary data about their injury, their doctor's prognosis (and contact details for further information), their employer and possibly insurer, and their losses. Then they can hang up and let the software do the rest.
Overnight, the software should identify relevant case law and statutes, refer to online medical and safety expertise and fire off an email to the relevant employers' liability (EL) insurer. It will also alert a case manager to ensure appropriate rehabilitation is mobilised - an appointment next day with the case manager or in some cases direct with a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath might be arranged.
The EL insurer might also use smart software linked with their insureds who will already have reported the accident to them and to the HSE, to fulfil its accident reporting regulations (RIDDOR) requirements. That software might well be able to approve the claim and pass it for payment.
By the time the injury victim wakes up, the money to settle his claim may well already be in his bank account - he should be able to withdraw it on the way to his morning physio appointment. He might have to wait, though, for the get-well-soon card - or even flowers that could have been ordered for him by the insurer, employer and/or union.
Only one of these ideas is pure fantasy.
Admittedly, the software would have to be very smart indeed to deal with particularly complex cases, and it wouldn't be entirely possible to cater for conditions which might or might not resolve swiftly.
But much of the requisite technology already exists, and some of it is already in use by unions, lawyers and insurers. Employers can already fulfil their RIDDOR obligations by phone and electronic reporting is easy to envisage. Software might even be able to work out the risk involved in subsequent litigation and decidxe on a premium and a success fee.
The only bit I really don't believe will ever happen is getting a bank to let you withdraw the cash on the day it goes into your account.
Owen Tudor is a TUC compensation specialist