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News review; rehab code relaunch

Hailed as creating ‘a sea change in personal injury claims’, the rehabilitation code has been updated for the third time in its history.

Physical and vocational rehabilitation now play a key role in the journey experienced by injured parties so news that the code of practice has finally been updated after calls from lawyers and insurers alike will be welcome news.

The biggest difference this time is that there is a separate section for lower-value claims, defined as claims with a value up to £25,000 or below, where the code recognises the need for a more streamlined process. In the more serious cases it encourages rehabilitation case managers to work proactively with treating NHS clinicians.

The working party which reviewed the code has also published, for the first time, a guide for rehab case managers and people who commission them, which is separate from the code but intended to complement it.

Working party chair Mark Baylis said: "This new version is a big improvement, whilst remaining true to the principles of the original Code that all parties should work together to help claimants recover as quickly and completely as possible from their injuries. The case managers' guide fills a widely recognised gap, and has been warmly supported by those who have seen it."

APIL president encourages co-operation

Elsewhere in the news for personal injury professionals, the usual tit-for-tat squabbling has been replaced by some rare moments of consensus, as leaders from the industry seek common ground. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers began September by sending an open letter to its counterparts in the insurance industry, asking for collaboration on tackling rogue claims management companies and to launch a collective drive in support of improving young drivers’ safety.

Jonathan Wheeler, President of APIL also called for mandatory public liability insurance as he reminded everyone that 2015 has perhaps been a more co-operative year than others. “It’s only been three months since insurers started sharing data with claimant lawyers to help prevent fraud. A few years ago no-one would have placed bets on this being achieved,” he said.

"Great work is also being done between insurers and claimant lawyers to improve the way we deal with serious injury cases and rehabilitation."

There was more good news for both sides of the industry as Forum of Insurance Lawyers members backed a proposed exemption from draconian court fees for PI cases. In July the Ministry of Justice had proposed further increases for claims, but instead proposed the charges only on claims valued in excess of £200,000. However, FOIL reminded MOJ policymakers that it could be shooting itself in the foot. “The cost burden in successful cases will often fall on the defendant and, in many cases that will be the government, insurers, and local government,” a FOIL statement said.