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Mitchell is talk of town

Mitchell' appears to have usurped Jackson as nom de rigueur within personal injury circles as two of the industry's major conferences tackled the big issues. Premextra reviews March's month of conferences. 

The industry's networkers needed their best handshake and room-scanning skills as hundreds of well known faces met at Manchester's Old Trafford Cricket Ground on 17th March for the Claims Magazine Conference, before dusting off their wares at the Chelsea FC Hotel in London for its rival the Modern Claims Conference. As ever, Premex representatives were out in force and with social networks averaging 40 tweets an hour, the online chatter included reportage from a good number of sources. 

Those following the #claimsconfupdates on twitter 17th did not have to be online for long to see that the Mitchell costs budgeting issue was front of mind for many. Legal commentator Kerry Underwood gave a somewhat less than subtle indication about judges' current position: "Some [judges] are getting a sexual kick out of 'Mitchell Nazism'" said Kerry, to a surprised audience as he explained how the current rules were being interpreted. 

Elsewhere on the agenda, former FOIL president and Keoghs partner Don Clark provided a detailed update on the defendant position alongside the ABI's Rob Cummings. Don reported how claims management company registration had dropped to a trickle with only two authorised in the year 2013/14. Rob, facing a slightly hostile audience, did his best to allay claimant conspiracy theories, declaring 'The Government and insurance industry have never been in cahoots'.

With the debate on securing a stable future for the provision of independent medical evidence, Premex CEO Donald Fowler was invited to provide the company's perspective on how this can be delivered. However that was not before a number of co-panellists had pointed out the dangers of proceeding without medical evidence. Carpenters' Donna Scully, said "No lawyer should be recommending pre-med offers to their clients."

Donald Fowler said he was encouraged at how far the industry had moved forward in its persuit of independent medical panels, adding that Premex had been at the forefront of developing independent accreditation for medical practitioners, through the Certificate in Medical Reporting (Cert MR) qualification. "Now the industry is moving onto its next phase of development," he said.

One week later and the venue had changed for a continuation of all the hot topics at the Modern Claims Conference in London. Arguably the biggest draw and the most talked about speaker was Professor Dominic Regan who gave a personal take on the fast track portal that left the audience in no uncertain terms. "The new era of the portal is no fun. Where is there scope in the automatic claims form to tell someone to **** off?!" he said.

Just days after the proposals for a new 28 day buffer rule was proposed by Civil Justice Council, in order to relive pressure on the courts; Professor Regan returned to the topic, with another unique perspective. "If we adopt Mitchell for the TV Licence debate, the penalty would be a death sentence!"

Elsewhere on the agenda, Mr Justice Ramsey provided a courts' position on the Jackson reforms. He offered a good amount of detail however there was to be no particularly good news after he said that "it will probably take five years to assess if Jackson has been a success".

And finally there was a good deal of tit for tat debate regarding Whiplash with a heavyweight panel of insurers featuring Zurich's John Latter, Ageas' Rob Smale, Axa's David Williams and LV's Martin Milliner. This resulted in a number of statements around the value provided by solicitors in the whiplash claims process. "It's time to make way for new people to do things differently," said Rob Smale. "Customers have had an unfair ride by paying solicitors costs".

The gloves were certainly off.