A recent survey highlights the need for a more efficient system, says David Hooker

"We need a more modern compensation system." That was the view of respondents in research carried out by Norwich Union into the culture of blame and gain.

1000 cross-country, cross gender, cross generation, cross socio-economic group respondents expressed concern if the development of this culture went unchecked.

When the respondents were asked what action could be taken the following were among the suggestions:

  • Ban no win no fee advertising and limit what lawyers get
  • Government should impose limits (on compensation)
  • Kind not cash
  • Better system
  • So how do we respond to this challenge and what would a system to meet the needs of today look like?

    While Access to Justice was a logical step, it left too much to free market forces. There was no infrastructure around the launch, and it did not deliver a market to service access. In fact, it singularly failed to do that.

    We now need to develop that infrastructure. Limiting the more excessive aspects of the no win no fee farmers would be a good start, followed by limiting what lawyers get paid.

    There needs to be greater consistency and transparency in damages for the most commonly sustained injuries, for example whiplash. Although this might be achieved by publishing a table in much the same way as the Criminal Injuries Compensation System, it could equally be served by the Department of Constitutional Affairs taking ownership of one of the pain suffering and loss of amenity estimating systems. If they were to "tune" the compensation levels, and compensators dialled in for a settlement value on a pay as you go basis, it would have the confidence of the public.

    Any modernisation has to deliver peace of mind and reparation for those that are accessing the system. What better way of delivering this than an integrated rehabilitation approach? This values rehabilitation as a way of getting life back on track and as the first logical step to assessing the cash payment that should be made.

    In summary, if we are to create a modern compensation system, legal reform has to concentrate on swifter conclusions and fairer payouts. A non-monetary angle must be introduced in the form of rehabilitation and use of lawyers only where they add value – and only specialists in personal injury at that. This requires implicit trust from the public that they will get a fair deal from insurers.

    Only we can generate that. There is a strong mandate for beneficial change, and it is down to government, the public sector, insurers, solicitors and businesses to take the lead and ensure that the current system doesn't cost us all in the end.

  • David Hooker is director of claims (public affairs) at Norwich Union
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