Insurers urged to waive liability on claims to ease negotiations on damages

The TUC is to propose that automatic settlement of contentious claims should be agreed by insurers at an early stage.

The move is aimed at tackling the problem of rising legal costs, which amount to about 40% of each claim.

TUC senior policy officer Owen Tudor said: "Our members want their money, not their day in court."

The TUC wants insurers to automatically begin settlement negotiations before the pre-action protocols required by Civil Justice Rules.

It also hopes to persuade insurers to waive liability on claims to allow negotiations to concentrate solely on the level of damages.

Settling claims before the protocols commenced would have a significant effect on reducing legal costs.

The protocols lay down a strict timetable for the progression of litigation. Experts say that the operation increases legal costs, even when a settlement is reached, by requiring more work to be done at the earlier stages of litigation - known as "front loading".

Tudor said: "Our proposal needs to work so that neither side is disadvantaged. We need to persuade employers and insurers that it would not result in increased claims payments."

On the issue of insurers agreeing to waive liability, he said: "Insurers tend not to question the unions on issues of liability. The proposed system would only be suitable for this type of action where there is a level of trust."