The insurance industry, it seems, has finally sat up and taken notice of the importance of liability adjusters. This is despite CILA wrestling with the term "adjuster", since the term does not really fit the current liability scene at all.

One reason for this dramatic jump in perceived importance is Woolf. Suddenly, everybody needs EL, PL and RTA investigation and time limits, sanctions and draconian costs/interest implications are worrying most.

But not the liability adjuster. He has been beavering away for years at proactive settlements, multi-scenario reserving, claims management, witness statements, commercial considerations and so on. Why are witness statements always viewed as a chore or an unnecessary add on? Liability adjusters have been routinely getting them for years.

The introduction of Woolf's reforms last April was not such an enormous change for them. It has always been the case that the liability adjuster has had to have at his disposal a great breadth of skills. These have increased. You cannot dumb down on liability claims. Bucketloads of statutory developments controlling the non-motor lines of business have seen to that. Interviewing is a technique that improves according to experience – reading out a list of questions from a pro forma is not enough. Interpretation of the facts is gleaned from a technical and concise focus, knowledge and reference to case law and statute.

Reporting to client insurers requires answers not questions, judgement not speculation and a balanced understanding of the difficulties associated with claims estimating.

Ask claims managers what their biggest headache is and where they get the most pressure, and they will say reserving. At least it always was for me in my earlier claims manager days.

Claims management is something that has always been recognised, but not fully understood or always followed. It is a term usually describing the control and management of large portfolios of outsourced claims.

Liability adjusters continue to be claims managers case by case. Managing the supply of documentation according to the rules of disclosure, managing reserve scenarios to keep insurers aware, and managing the life of a claim to ensure the IBNR development cost does not undermine the reserve levels.

Many in the legal profession are increasingly using liability adjusters to recognise the focused, cost-effective product that is available, and that liability adjusters often take on a paralegal profile in many cases.

This is a skill harnessed not by handling thousands of small claims, but hundreds of mid-size or larger personal injury claims, leading to significant levels of potential costs linked to sharp deadlines. Not an easy life – and shared by a diminishing number of true specialists available in the market.

Although personal injury dominates, heavyweight property damage liability claims involving complex contractual interpretations are also bread and butter to the profession. Consideration of maximum severity injury and the recent emphasis on rehabilitation has to be part of the skills package. Doctor, lawyer, manager, technician too. We are almost beginning to sound important.

  • Peter Mann FCII, Arb. MIMgt is senior partner of The Quest Partnership, liability adjusters and claims managers. He is also a partner in the joint venture The Quest Gates Partnership.