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Agreement on personal injury cases under COVID-19

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) have agreed a position in relation to cases where limitation would possibly be an issue in the next few months. A schedule is attached setting out the basis of the agreement. This will be hosted on the ABI’s website together with a list of plaintiff and defendant parties which have signed up to the agreement.

The two representative bodies have agreed that parties should take a consensual approach in relation to time limits and seek to avoid any unfair advantage of a party not complying with a procedural requirement.

APIL and the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) have reached agreement on a set of principles of best practice for mutual co-operation in Northern Ireland during the COVID-19 restrictions. These cover good communications between solicitors, servicing proceedings electronically, medical examinations, exchange of evidence, requests for extensions, adjournments, payments, remote negotiations and remote hearings.

Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA said: “I welcome this agreement between the ABI and APIL, and in particular the pro-active engagement between the two bodies in working out a flexible solution that enables the justice system to continue to operate in the interests of both plaintiffs and defendants, during the current emergency situation.”

Oonagh McClure, APIL representative in Northern Ireland and a Partner at Thompsons NI LLP said: “As is to be expected, the current COVID-19 crisis is affecting all aspects of commercial and administrative life. As lawyers working in the claims sphere, the current requirements for self-isolation; the non-availability of our own staff, together with our clients, counsel and experts; and restrictions on travel and contact with others, are all creating significant challenges. It is clear that it will not be possible to continue with ‘business as usual’ and we welcome the steps that have been taken to mitigate the problems.”

Alastair Ross, Head of Public Policy for Northern Ireland at the ABI said: “The current crisis requires all those involved in civil litigation to take account of the current circumstances in delivering upon the overriding objective. We expect parties and their representatives on both sides to take a responsible approach to personal injury litigation. Insurers will continue to see to settle claims where liability has been agreed as promptly as possible so that compensation awards can be paid.”

Kevin Shevlin, Chair of FOIL in Northern Ireland and a Partner at Murphy O’Rawe Solicitors in Belfast said: “We hope that the current crisis will be short-lived and that it will be possible to return to normal conditions as soon as possible. Until then we are committed to taking all steps to work effectively alongside the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service and the judiciary in maintaining effective dispute resolution.