These reforms have important implications for in the way Personal Injury Claims
are dealt with from now on.
"The Woolf Reforms" is the general term given to describe the substantial
changes to Civil Court rules in England and Wales which became effective on April
26 1999. The changes follow recommendations put forward by Lord Woolf following
his review of the existing system. The review did not extend to Scotland & Northern
Ireland, but both judicial systems are known to be looking at proposals to see
if they have a role for them.
A number of flaws were identified in the current system, relating mostly to unnecessary
delay and cost. The main change that Woolf recommends relates to the time scales
that parties have in which to investigate and prepare their cases. The reform
is all about access to justice as quickly and cheaply as possible, and avoidance
of unnecessary litigation.
What Are The Main Changes?
After April 26 1999, claims will be placed into one of three tracks:
Small Claims - less than £5,000 property and/or less than ٟ,000
Multi Track Claims -all claims over £15,000 plus more complex,
lower value claims not suitable for Fast Track.
At the moment Woolf specifically relates to Personal
Injury Claims only however handling of other claims
needs to comply with the spirit of the Reforms.
The Reforms also introduce new Pre-action Protocols:
The initial Letter of Claim (usually from the claimant's
solicitors) should be sent to you in duplicate to make it easier
for you to notify your relevant insurer.
This letter must include a clear summary of the facts and
indicate the nature of the injuries suffered and any financial loss
An acknowledgement identifying the insurer and requesting
further information if necessary, must be sent by the Insurer within
21 days. You should not acknowledge this letter of claim.
The Insurer has a maximum of 3 months from their acknowledgement
to complete their investigation and to respond on your behalf confirming
either acceptance or denial of liability.
If liability is being denied, then copies of all relevant
documents must be provided to the claimants solicitors at that stage.
Failure to meet these time scales will enable the claimant to issue
proceedings and may also allow other fines/penalties, especially
as regards level of costs.
Some Practical Issues For You
To help your insurer represent you effectively and meet the new time
scales, when dealing with Personal Injury Claims you should:
Notify them (via CIB Ltd) immediately of all incidents
involving 3 days or more absence from work, and any others where
you believe that a claim will be forthcoming.
Ensure that every relevant person within your organisation
knows who is responsible for receiving Letters of Claim, and these
are passed Directly To Your Insurers, Immediately and Unanswered.
Nominate a Deputy for dealing with Letters of Claim, especially
at holiday times -21 days is an exceptionally short deadline.
Ensure that incidents are investigated thoroughly. Take witness
statements and photographs as appropriate.
Establish procedures to guarantee early availability to your
insurers of witnesses and all relevant paperwork (i.e. accident book
entry, incident report, earnings information, training records, warning
notices, personal protective equipment records).
Consider establishing and maintaining a central 'library'
of potentially disclosable documents, to avoid having to track them
down for each claim.
The Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Regulations 1998
These new regulations, which came into force on 1st January 1999,
introduce a number of changes that you need to be aware of.
Employers' Liability Limit of Indemnity:
The minimum limit of indemnity required is increased from £2M
to £5M (£10M is however the industry standard in most
The indemnity limit applies in respect of the amount of any
claim AND costs incurred in claims handling.
Where the policyholder is a company and subsidiaries, the
Regulations apply as if they were a single employer, i.e. the minimum £5M
limit is not required separately for each insured company. However,
this provision does not apply to 'Associated' companies who will
require their own policy and indemnity limit.
Existing policies may continue beyond 1/1/1999 but, where
necessary, must be rearranged on expiry/renewal (and in any case
no later than 1/1/2000) to meet the new regulations.
The Certificate must be more specific over the companies
covered by the policy. The options are to state that the policy