The affect of the Legal Reforms on the Expert Witness process

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  • Expert witnesses – affect the reforms could have on the process?

  • How could your workflow change once the reforms are implemented?

  • How will improving technology within the sector help the RTA landscape?

Expert Witnesses have been used by the personal injury industry for many years to provide independent justification of quantum, and in some cases to assist with liability or other arguments.  In the case of road traffic accident reports, the expert is there to control the repair costs & repair process of the vehicle, or in the case of a total loss, the pre-accident value.  They will also record salient details of the accident which often assist with liability such as impact direction, magnitude, positioning, dimensional measurements, paint transfer, etc.

Litigants in Person

If there is no solicitor controlling the case & it is up to a Litigant in Person (LIP) to bring his claim, one option they often take is simply to ask a bodyshop to provide an estimate.  A motor engineer would normally audit such an estimate and negotiate with the garage to police the cost and methodology of the repairs.  Without such intervention the bodyshop is uncontrolled.  Worse still, if aware that their estimates are unlikely to be challenged then quotes may become indulgent & average repair costs can rocket. 

Insurance Approved Bodyshop

Alternatively some insurers will attempt to steer the LIP into one of their ‘approved’ bodyshops.  We would not want to tarnish all insurers & repairs with the same brush but typically approval is garnered by offering cheap repair rates in return for volume; not a direction synonymous with quality. 

Being forced to work to average repair costs or exceptionally cheaply can often result in corners being cut.  Sub-standard repairs can lead to diminution in value, refusal by the dealership to take in a subsequent part exchange and in the worst case scenarios, dangerous repairs. 

We have seen some terrible repairs which would not protect the occupants during a further impact to anywhere near where the manufacturers intended standard.  A real threat to human life to simply to ensure increased profits for the insurer.

Accident Management Companies

Experts are likely to see instructions swapping from legal entities to management companies.  The expert’s legal responsibilities is different here plus the focus tends to be on quantum rather than liability issues together with a rapid turnaround in order to mitigate hire car, storage or loss of use charges.  Being less regulated than solicitors, AMCs vary widely in quality.  Most that we deal with are outstanding, as they tend to operate as a business with a keen eye on customer service, an efficient supply chain and an evolutionary attitude towards technology.

Technology

The sector (both legal & AMCs) has benefited hugely from the technology available as we race into the forth industrial revolution. So many processes have become automated and with APIs becoming mainstream our systems are able to talk to each other with immediate & complete precision 24/7.  In our case we use API to collect vehicle data (DVLA, MotorCheck), estimating & valuation data (Audatex, Glass’s), accountancy (Sage, Xero, RBS, Barclays) and talk effectively with our clients (via Proclaim & most other case management systems).  We can teach our systems what we do & how we want it done, so it ‘learns’, augmenting our speed and accuracy; machine learning being a good step towards AI.

With autonomous & connected cars now amongst us our focus is understanding how this affects us from a technological view point.  We are keeping a close eye on how legislation surrounding these vehicles will operate; we’re delighted and proud that the UK’s government are so keen to be at the forefront of this new vehicular era and hope that they manage to devise some fair and unrestrictive regulation. 

“Insurance will be redefined by autonomy”  

We have already seen some vehicle manufacturers trialing self-insurance in much the same way that servicing plans & finance are predominantly dealer controlled. This double edged sword also tackles the clash between manufacturers wanting to repair vehicles with their approved methods and genuine parts and insurers who’s priorities tend to revolve around shareholder profits.

One thing is for certain; our children’s transport, insurance and legal system will look very different to the one we have grown up with.  Let’s hope it is for the better.

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