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PERSONAL INJURY NEWS ROUNDUP 2012

There was an expectation that the personal injury profession could look very different by the close of 2012. PremExtra reviews the years' news as it happened.

After a brief bank holiday respite, the market awoke on 3rd January to a new regime in which Alternative Business Structures would finally be enabled. As it happened 'ABS Day' in fact represented British bureaucracy at its best with the occasion only marking the point from which firms could apply for their new licence. Nevertheless, by the end of week one 65 businesses had added their names to the list.

Meanwhile, as PremExtra was going to press, a deal was hatched down under to steal all the headlines with Australian firm Slater & Gordon announcing it had acquired Russell Jones & Walker for £53.8m.

In February, Premex Services put its public affairs hat on to present a much needed argument at Parliament. Our invitation by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance and Financial Services helped clarify how medical reporting organisations deliver their services and was aptly described as '  balancing the debate', by one commentator.

As time moved on those of a claimant persuasion in the personal injury profession could be forgiven for thinking someone had it in for them. PremExtra reported in March how the progress of legislation governing costs for the entire sector appeared to be moving further against them. This was illustrated when  LASPO Clause 135a put the frighteners on some people before the Ministry of Justice quickly backtracked.

Nevertheless, things could and indeed did, get weirder as April's PremExtra swapped the frighteners for 'Gigglegate'. The then Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly was roundly criticised for his  apparently insensitive response during a debate on compensation for the victims of asbestos-related injuries. 

April also saw the insurance industry score some valuable PR points when, oddly, the Supreme Court found against it. In the decades-long trigger litigation case, defendants finally found themselves  liable for mesothelioma claims which no sane individual could ever say they shouldn't have paid.

Despite furious debate in the House of Lords, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act finally received Royal Assent in May. Meanwhile, the market went start up crazy; Co-operative Legal Services vowed to create 3000 jobs and everyone's favourite motorway boredom-fixing haulage firm  Stobart launched its own firm, opting for a more accessible form of advocacy. 

As June came around, the insurers once again grabbed all the Kudos with arguably our favourite story of the whole year. In a triumph of bureaucracy, a boat loaded with Russian attack helicopters, bound for war torn Syria was forced to turn around after invalidating its insurance. Channel 4 News asked 'Have the suits in this non-descript central London office, achieved something the international community hasn't managed? Apply some brakes on the bombardment by Syria's government of its people..?'

By the time July came around, few of us could think about anything other than the Olympics, but some important news for the sector broke that month as the first potentially meaningful data on the effectiveness of the Fast Track RTA Personal Injury claims portal were published.

With August and September belonging to team GB, Premex gathered together its own team for the  inaugural Future Focus Group, at which experts from across the personal injury market offered conjecture and insight about how the industry could work together in future years.

It was becoming clear that the market will be heading for some interesting times as October'snews cycle became dominated by the topic of ABSs once again. This time brands like the AA and Saga were  putting their hats into the ring and even the famously prickly Axa Insurance was reportedly considering the idea.

November provided an opportunity for the industry to press the flesh, as the annual conference season picked up to full swing. Top of many agendas were the Ministry of Justice's proposed cost reforms for users of the RTA portal, which as  PremExtra reported, went down like a lead balloon in some quarters.

And so December is half way over and the market's top story has already hit the headlines. A busy year for Whitehall ends with the MOJ's whiplash consultation and the prospect of 12 weeks' head scratching as the industry understands its various positions while the  dear old Daily Mail reports proposals as cast iron fact.

Our predictions for 2013? The latter point will remain a cast iron certainty in perpetuity. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of our friends and customers!