Insurers can stop claims getting bigger than they need to be.
The whiplash reforms are both a threat and opportunity for insurers says Chris Chatterton, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of handl Group. But if they are to avoid reputational damage and rising costs and instead seize the opportunities, they need to Engage.
The impending whiplash reforms present a concerning cocktail of conditions for insurers: the potential for claims inflation and exaggeration. Ballooning bottlenecks at the Small Claims Court. And claimants left in an unsatisfactory holding pattern that ruins any chance of customer loyalty.
In the first part of his examination of the whiplash reforms, handl Group’s Chris Chatterton explored the issues that will be in play post-May 2021. Now, he examines how handl Engage offers a comprehensive and pragmatic way forward for insurers caught in the headlights of where to turn next.
“You do get the feeling insurers are adopting a ‘wait and see’ strategy right now,” he says. “We think that’s wrong. There’s an opportunity here to engage with people who’ve been in an accident. Talk to them about the problems that have arisen – and do it sooner rather than later – and insurers can stop claims getting bigger than they need to be.”
Introducing handl Engage
handl Engage reimagines and reengineers the way claims are handled in the post-reform world. Combining claims handling, credit hire, accident management, medical reporting, rehabilitation and arbitration, Engage increases claims control, reduces risk, lowers costs and engages claimants in a way that makes them brand advocates.
The more efficiently and proactively claims are handled, the less chance there is of customers heading off in search of third party representation. A concierge service like Coplus, part of handl Engage, is better placed than insurers to deliver that service, as Chris explains:
“There’s an inherent level of consumer mistrust of an insurer’s motives in this – there’s always that question in their mind of ‘what are they doing that for’? Using a concierge service removes much of that and reframes the relationship. Instead of the insurer saying, ‘we’re here to help’, we become the ones saying, ‘Your insurer has appointed us to help you out and do everything you need’.
“It gives insurers a much better chance of keeping customers come renewal time.”
“Settlements are going to be smaller from 1 June,” Chris says, “so insurers need to offer services that are cost effective bearing in mind the size of the claim.
“Pre-pandemic you’d be appointed to a physiotherapist and you’d have to go for six appointments – that’s a lot of time, a lot of effort and it’s quite a labour intensive process for claimants. And, of course, it’s expensive for insurers.
“Post-reform, things need to change and a digitally enabled service – people plus tech – is how you deliver that in a way that actually improves service provision for claimants while controlling costs for insurers.
Chris highlights the contribution handl Engage’s rehabilitation service, Corporé, can make to ensuring claimants enjoy more appropriate rehabilitation, faster.
“We start with a digital triage that finds out what the problem is. That determines the correct channel for you. That might be self-help exercises delivered via app. It might be remote access to a physiotherapist. It might be in-person physiotherapy.
“The point is you get the care pathway appropriate to you rather than a one-size-fits-all. You get a more effective solution.
“It’s not all about the physio appointment either; it’s what happens in between. If you can make the in-between parts more effective with app-based self-help, people get better faster.”
That delivers better outcomes for patients, but Chris is quick to point out the benefits for insurers too.
“If you get to someone early and get them into your treatment pathways quickly, claimants will see and feel the effect of that. They’ll be getting better. That means you stop them searching around for the professional representatives who will seek to make the case bigger than it needs to be. You keep them out of that world.”
Claimants who can’t reach agreement through the Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal will eventually arrive at the Small Claims Court (SCC) for settlement. Chris believes the SCC route is simply unsustainable.
“Right now there’s a 12 month backlog at the SCC,” he explains. “Throw all these cases at it and it’s only going to get worse. So (another) danger is that insurers will have a lot of open cases waiting to go through a court system that was never really designed or resourced to handle them.”
That’s where Claimspace's arbitration services, another part of the Engage offering, come into play.
“Arbitration places your case with a barrister who’s a trained arbitrator. Both parties agree to be bound by the arbitrator’s view, who makes an independent assessment of who’s at fault it is and how much the claim is worth.
“This happens in seven days,” Chris stresses. “Clients aren’t left with their case hanging over them for more than a year. Insurers get cases settled fast. Arbitration has to be the way forward because the courts can’t cope with the alternative.”
People plus tech to put your arms around the claimant
For Chris, ‘Engage’ isn’t just the name of handl Group’s post-reform portfolio service, it’s at the core of what needs to happen in the brave new world of whiplash reform.
“Someone having an accident on 1 June is going to face a whole new system,” he says. “The chances are they won’t know what to do. They’ll be directed towards an unfamiliar portal. They’re going to have to do the legwork themselves. They’re going to find the claim they thought would get them £2000 will now bring them £200. And they’re probably going to be incredibly frustrated by that.
“Insurers are going to carry the can for this. All those stereotypes about ‘I’ve been paying this for years and when I finally make a claim…’ will come to the fore.
“So insurers really need to engage. They need to approach this with open arms, explain what will happen, do it quickly and get claims settled. If they don’t they’ll have a real problem. If they do – if they focus on the claimant and get this right – they could transform the way their customers see them.”
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