Gerard Stilliard, head of personal injury strategy, comments:

As the nation – and the world – continues to adapt to life during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s important that access to justice for the injured and mistreated doesn’t fall by the wayside.

We recognised early on that the disruption caused by the pandemic could lend itself to potential sharp practice, and so –  while it is in our DNA to work only for claimants, and not with or for defendant insurers – when the virus hit, the need to collaborate to help prevent that from happening was inescapable.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Personal Injury Protocol

This is why we spearheaded the development and launch of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Personal Injury Protocol, in partnership with the Association of British Insurers (ABI). By working together, we can attempt to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and protect access to justice for injured claimants.

We’re delighted to see that the sector has taken the Protocol on board, with 279 different law firms and 38 insurers signing up to, what has been described as, an ‘unprecedented’ cross-industry collaboration. During a Commons Select Committee hearing, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, also noted how the Protocol “[encapsulates] what needs to be done, particularly in the field of personal injury, when it comes to being sensible about the impact of what is going on around us on proceedings”.

Changing practices

Despite the pandemic, those who are injured or mistreated at work, on the roads, or elsewhere, still need specialist legal help. Without this, they could be left in significant financial difficulties during already testing times.

Our teams across the UK have adapted, working with the courts and defendants on remote hearings and meetings, either via telephone or video conferencing. This has led to us securing more than £18 million pounds in settlements, including through remote Joint Settlement Meetings (JSMs), since the lockdown began.

In one example of a successful virtual JSM, serious injury solicitor, Monique Medd, helped a former lorry driver and Unite member secure £350,000. The man was involved in a road accident that left him trapped in his lorry cabin for more than two hours, with petrol leaking nearby, causing him to suffer severe post-traumatic stress disorder, in addition to orthopedic injuries. While the incident has had a life-changing impact on the man’s life, the compensation will enable him to remain financially secure as he attempts to return to full-time work.

London-based medical negligence lawyer, Alexandra Scott, secured £500,000 for a client in another virtual JSM. The client was subject to a series of unnecessary and invasive procedures, leaving her with fibromyalgia, incontinence and severe fatigue.

Alexandra’s hard work recovered the client’s significant loss of earnings, as well as money to pay for future medical care and adaptations.

We also supported members of Unite the union in a successful challenge to Carluccio’s insolvency, ensuring its employees are able to access the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. In a fast-moving, pandemic-induced financial situation for workers, we worked with Unite to secure access to the Scheme, for workers who would have otherwise been left with no income.   

Providing expert advice

Throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we understand the importance of providing expert, accessible advice. As well as using work-arounds, like the Personal Injury Protocol agreed with the ABI, to secure compensation for clients, our employment rights team has been working hard to break down the government’s briefings for union legal officers, union members and the wider public.

You can keep up to date with the latest employment rights news during the pandemic with our Labour and European Law Review bulletin.