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Norwich Union shakes up whiplash claims system

Aviva subsidiary Norwich Union has begun rolling out a new approach to whiplash insurance claims based on a protocol that uses evidence-based medicine and focuses on rehabilitation.

Norwich Union currently handles 50,000 whiplash claims a year, accounting for around 80% of its total bodily injury claims volume. Working with Rehabilitation UK and a university-based academic team, the insurer has reviewed the treatment of hundreds of whiplash injuries to establish a best practice protocol using evidence-based medicine (EBM).

Since 2005, Norwich Union has been collating information from its pilot rehabilitation center in Maidenhead. The results from this pilot show that an EBM model delivers positive clinical and claims outcomes, the company said. Consequently, the approach is to be adopted on all Norwich Union whiplash claims and is being implemented in conjunction with three preferred partners, IPRS, Rehabworks and Rehabilitation UK.

With the new approach, a personally tailored program is delivered by clinically trained telephone-based handlers who provide the injured person with information on their condition and advice on how they can best control and manage their own recovery. If the claimant requires physiotherapy, this is arranged via Physiotherapy Networks.

In addition to clinical benefits, the approach has reduced the time taken to settle claims under GBP5,000 by two thirds. There has also been a reduction in the overall claims costs, although this was due to a reduction in the amount paid to claimant lawyers, not a decrease in damages.

Historically, the compensation system has focused on making payments to an injured person rather than concerning itself with their wellbeing and helping them recover. However, Norwich Union found that claimants favor the use of rehabilitation and nearly 90% of them said that they were happy with the new approach.

The insurer also said that it believes whiplash claims are typically straightforward and capable of fair and swift resolution, and thus do not need to generate disproportionate legal costs.

Norwich Union Healthcare is currently piloting a back pain protocol for its Private Medical Insurance customer, and said that it has not ruled out further EBM services.