Circular No: NP/074/15
Our Ref: LA/ 47/15
22nd April 2015
To: Branches, Regional Councils & Regional Offices; Regional Officers
Procedure on how Union solicitors (England and Wales) will deal with personal injury cases.
From the 1st May 2015, Thompsonswill change the way they deal with the Unions personal injury cases in England and Wales. The reason that Thompsons must do this is due to Government imposed changes to drive down the costs recovered in personal injury cases. They will only receive fixed costs regardless of how much work they do on a case, and because cases of lower value will have to be dealt with in a special computerised way (see below) Thompsons has had to make these changes in order for the firm to survive. All our cases will be dealt with initially from one centre which will be the Sheffield Call Handling Centre (TUCH) whose address is Synergy Building, Campo Lane, Sheffield S1 2EL.
Members in England and Wales still have the choice of two options; they can send the L1 form direct to Sheffield or they can use the paperless way by telephoning 0845 712 5495. In Scotland, members complete the L1 and send this to the Regional Office who send to Head Office for allocation to either Drummond Miller or Christine McCrossan (Offshore workers).
All cases of a certain value will remain in Sheffield to be dealt with unless they become complex or they are of high value when they will be referred to the nearest Regional Office to the member.
The Sheffield call centre is open Monday to Friday from 08.00 to 20:00 and Saturday from 09:00 to 17:00.
The Personal Injury procedure referred to as “the Portal” affects all personal injury claims of a certain value. If a member wants to claim for a personal injury from a road traffic accident occurring on or after 30 April 2010, the case will follow a special procedure. The procedure only applies where liability is admitted and the personal injury claim for pain and suffering (general damages) is valued at between £1,000 and £10,000.
From 31 July 2013 the procedure will apply to all personal injury claims valued at between £1,000 and £25,000.
The procedure is intended to be a streamlined process in three stages with strict time limits. The court is only involved at stage three. Information must be provided at each stage in the process and fixed recoverable costs are payable by the defendant's insurers at the end of each stage. Only qualified legal representatives can receive the fixed costs. However, the process can be used by a person without a solicitor. The member must exchange information on prescribed forms electronically on the website at www.rtapiclaimsprocess.org.uk. Our lawyers will do all this for the member.
Stage 1: After the claim form has been processed the Union solicitor must notify the defendant's insurer of the claim on a claims notification form. The defendant's insurer must either admit liability or deny liability for the claim within 15 days. It is not possible to extend the time limit.
If the defendant's insurer denies liability, or alleges contributory negligence, the claim will leave the process and be dealt with under the usual court procedure. If the case is to be dealt with under the court process then it will be sent to the nearest Regional office to our member.
Stage 2: Once liability is admitted by the defendant's insurer, at stage two the Union's solicitor must send a medical report, receipts for special damages (loss of earnings and incidental expenses), receipts for disbursements (costs of medical reports and records); and an offer of settlement to the defendant's insurer.
The insurer has 15 days to consider and accept the offer or make a counter offer. Where the defendant's insurer makes a counter offer, the parties have a further 20 days to negotiate a settlement.
Stage 3: If the parties cannot agree the claim, the Union's solicitor must prepare a court proceedings pack for the defendant's insurer within 15 business days of the end of stage two. Both parties must state their final offer in the pack. The defendant has five days to check the pack.
The Union's solicitor must then make an application to the court to assess the amount of damages due to the member. The claim form is served and the defendant must acknowledge service of the form. The district judge will notify the parties of the date when the judge will assess the damages. Fixed costs will be paid, depending on the amount of the judgment. The parties may agree a settlement before the court hearing. If this happens, fixed costs will be paid. It does not matter how much work the solicitor does on a case they will only recover fixed costs depending on the stage settlement was reached.
Our solicitors have given us a commitment that they will lodge a member’s claim on the portal in England and Wales on the day of their call to TUCH. That is assuming that they have given sufficient information.
Our members are important to us and they should expect a good quality of service from all our solicitors; that means they should expect all telephone calls to be returned and additionally receive:
- A detailed client care letter at the outset; giving the name of the person who is dealing with their case; how to complain if they are unhappy and the name of the team manager.
- Updates at every significant stage of the process i.e.
v Upon receipt of the liability decision;
v When medical evidence is received/valuation of the case;
v Upon receipt of the Defendants counter offer;
v Each update sets out what stage the members case has reached; what happens next and the timescales.
- All cases are subject to supervision when medical evidence is received and the case is ready to be valued.
- If a member’s case is in excess of £10,000 a specialist solicitor advice is prepared and statements are prepared for the member with the aim of maximizing damages.
- Cases of serious injury are taken from the portal system referred to above and referred to the members’ local regional office to be dealt with by specialised solicitors experienced in running higher value claims.
- All members are able to request a face to face meeting should that be required and also to indicate their preferred line of communication.
If you are not happy with the service then you should advice the member to complain to the case handler and ask for the service to be improved. If this is not improved the member should escalate the complaint using the Firms complaints procedure and if this fails refer the matter to our Legal Officer at our Legal Department in Maritime House Clapham Old Town Clapham Common London SW4 0JW.
I would be grateful if you could ensure that all your members and activists know this procedure please.