Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in minor personal injury claims will eventually become the standard means of finalising cases where settlement cannot be reached directly with the insurer, according to Minster Law chief executive officer Shirley Woolham.
Woolham’s comments came after the Yorkshire law firm released its preliminary findings from an ADR pilot study. The pilot ran during March and April and was conducted with a UK tier one insurer in partnership with NuvaLaw, a technology company that has developed a claims resolution platform offering negotiation tools and quality-assured ADR. Arbitrations are provided by Trust Mediation.
Thirty-nine claims were settled during the ADR pilot, and all were for minor injuries following a road traffic accident, including rehabilitation. Claims were settled within an average of 2.5 working days, with the quickest settlement time being just 24 hours.
Of the claims in the pilot, all but one settled above the final offer of the insurer. The highest award was for £5,167, the lowest for £2,100.
The latest Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics found that the average time taken for small claims and multi- or fast-track claims to go to trial was 51 weeks and 73 weeks, which is 14 and 13 weeks longer than the same period in 2019, respectively.
Woolham said: “The point of settlement is to allow injured people to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible. That simply can’t happen if they have to wait over a year for their case to come to court.”
“Our pilot shows that ADR delivers justice quickly, so it makes sense for customers but also for insurers and for law firms, and it means our courts can focus on more challenging issues.”
She said the pilot underscored the benefits of closer cooperation with insurers, and that she hoped it would act as a catalyst for more widespread adoption of ADR in settling personal injury cases, including through the new Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal due to be launched at the end of May.
“We would be happy to share our results with the MoJ. The Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, has indicated his support for ADR in civil justice. We believe there is a compelling argument to accelerate its adoption for personal injury for cases up to £25,000.”
Willie Pienaar, chief executive of NuvaLaw, said that the critical proof points from the study were ease of implementation, ease of use, and the quality of awards: “The technology is in place and with only two touches per claim, our solution has now proved itself to be a higher quality, more controllable and consistent alternative to a traditionally lengthy and expensive court process.”
“The outcome is binding and the customer has to agree to that up front, and we have been really pleased with the feedback to date.”
Woolham said ADR will improve the efficiency of cases for customers and the law firm, as caseloads aren’t blocked with cases that aren’t going anywhere.
She added: “A law firm’s first duty of care is to the customer, including consideration of all viable options to progress a customers’ case. We also have a duty to ensure that court resources are used properly and using ADR frees up valuable court time for other matters.”
“Frictional costs and charges are no longer acceptable in the 2020s, with ADR and other technology at our disposal. ADR has the capability to become the standard means of settling volume claims and we are glad to have sponsored this pathfinding project.”