Covid-19 protocol to protect access to justice receives significant support

More than 155 organisations from the legal and insurance sectors have signed up to a protocol designed to protect access to justice for injured claimants in the wake of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The new Coronavirus (Covid-19) Personal Injury Protocol, spearheaded by Thompsons Solicitors and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), was launched on 24 March.

It calls for both defendant and claimant personal injury solicitors and insurers to work together to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

The protocol has so far been adopted by 141 law firms and 17 insurance companies. Commenting on the reaction to the protocol so far, Thompsons Solicitors head of policy Tom Jones said: “The fact that more than 155 organisations on the front line of providing legal services to injured people have signed up to the framework shows both the demand for a collaborative approach and the threat to access to justice if no one had acted.”

“The agreement made by so many organisations—in just seven days—to avoid sharp practice and enable cases to proceed as best as possible in the current extraordinary circumstances is encouraging. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen strangers showing a strong sense of community and willingness to help each other under such stressful and unprecedented circumstances. It is pleasing to see that solicitors for both claimants and defendants recognise the need to work together in the best interest of the clients at this time.”

Under the protocol, signatory organisations agree that all limitation dates in all personal injury cases are frozen and promise to respond constructively to defendant requests for extension of time to serve a defence.

They will also put in place an escalation process and dedicated ‘hotline’ covering failure to comply with the freeze on limitation dates and undertaking to respond constructively to requests for extensions.

Finally, signatory organisations will commit to monitoring the hotline regularly and referring cases to senior decision makers for swift responses.

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, said: “Insurers are involved in a wide range of initiatives to give extra support to their customers at this difficult and worrying time. As part of this, their support for this Personal Injury Protocol is giving claimants added reassurance in progressing their personal injury claim.”

The protocol has been put in place for a minimum of four weeks with a joint review taking place the week commencing 13 April. By then, Thompsons Solicitors and the ABI said the Lord Chief Justice’s office may have formal instructions in place but for now, organisations can pledge their commitment to the protocol on the ABI’s website.