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Leading PI firm declares: We’re ready for whiplash reforms

Woolham: Talking to potential insurer partners

Minster Law has become the first major personal injury practice to state that it is ready for next year’s whiplash reforms by formally launching its self-service digital claims portal.

Shirley Woolham, chief executive of the Wakefield-based firm, hailed the system, called INK, as the first fully operational digital claims journey in the sector.

Some 70% of Minster Law’s customers suffering minor injuries are already using it and the target is 95% within the next year. Minster Law typically settles 2,200 cases every month.

She explained that it was “not just a shiny piece of front-end kit with a clunky back office sat behind”.

Minster has spent £5m re-developing its back-office operation to enable INK “to scale immediately and handle anything from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of volume injury claims”.

An element of the onboarding process is still done by telephone to provide clients with peace of mind, and there is “human interaction for customers who need it”, but otherwise the claim is managed electronically, including medical and rehabilitation appointments, all documents and correspondence, loss registration, settlement and case progression updates.

Ms Woolham said INK, which is mobile-enabled, has achieved 95% satisfaction rates among the 16,000 customers who have used it so far and would “lock seamlessly” into the government’s small claims portal when it finally goes live next April.

“We have built INK to plug into the Ministry of Justice portal, and we’ll be able to retrofit our system around the new rules from the Civil Procedure Rule Committee when they appear.

“It means our customers stay within the INK process but behind the scenes the claim will follow the requirements of the portal; we can do all the work on our customers’ behalf.”

Minster acquires most of its clients through partnerships and Ms Woolham said she was talking to “a number of other potential insurer partners as there is no limit to INK’s processing ability”.

Research conducted by Minster Law two years ago indicated that people were increasingly willing to have their personal injury claim handled entirely online [1], while last week another survey found that the proportion of road traffic accident victims who would be prepared to submit claims themselves has hit more than half for the first time [2].

Ms Woolham said: “I’m convinced the public are far more relaxed about using technology, even in sensitive areas such as settling an injury claim, and acceptance has been rapidly accelerated by the Covid pandemic.”

She added that Minster Law was also “actively looking at introducing new protocols and technology to resolve disputed claims without the need for court, and enabling claims to stay on track in the government portal”.

The firm will update the market on this “in due course”.

Its recently published accounts [3] showed that Minster Law recorded profit before tax of £1.1m, down a third, on a turnover down £1m to £34.1m for the year to 30 June 2020. It said the profit figure represented a “good result” given the exceptional trading conditions caused by Covid.

Next month’s online PI Futures conference [4], featuring one session a day in the week of 23 November, includes a detailed look at the current state of the whiplash reforms, and the options for firms looking either to stay in or exit the market.