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Driverless Cars, Artificial Intelligence… What Next? Online Dispute Resolution for Compensation Claims? - Tim Wallis, Trust Mediation

29/01/18. Question: Will online dispute resolution (ODR) make any headway with high volume - lower value compensation claims? The sceptic would say no, on the basis that many involved in the claims sector resist change, unless it is compulsory. I believe, however, that ODR is already having an impact in this sector and that there will be further significant developments. Here are my reasons.

First, all pervasive advances in technology are affecting many aspects of life. One facet of these developments is an always-connected “I want it now” smart-phone society. This produces societal expectations that are diametrically opposed to what is perceived as the excessive time and cost inherent in many traditional claims systems.

Secondly, civil justice systems worldwide are under pressure to provide more justice for less money and increasingly technology is offering as the answer to that conundrum. There is considerable evidence to buttress this point, particularly in relation to consumer claims. For example, the Civil Resolution Tribunal, Canada's first online tribunal, and PARLe, another Canadian ODR platform, as well as the EU’s ODR platform.

For confirmation that these new systems cannot be dismissed as foreign solutions for problems that we do not have, see the Civil Justice Council ODR report and the proposal by Briggs LJ and the MoJ for an Online Solutions Court. Both of these reports are referred to in “Move away from the building”, a recent article on the development of online justice by academic Dr Sue Prince. Further, private ODR initiatives are now live in this jurisdiction in the form of systems to compensate for train delays and flight disputes.

It is clear that the technology required to run ODR platforms is available and being used. It is equally clear that artificial intelligence has the potential to make significant improvements to those system that have already been developed.

Thirdly, there are particular pressures coming to bear in the personal injury sector. The move away from the hourly rate to fixed fees instigates an inexorable search for improvements in efficiency. This imperative will certainly apply when the small claims personal injury limit is raised and overseas holiday sickness claims become subject to fixed fees. The fact that, initially, ODR may have a consumer and litigant in person focus, does not mean that the online approach is not likely to be adopted in respect of claims currently being dealt with by personal injury lawyers and compensators.

The ODR train has already left the station.

Tim Wallis, Mediator and solicitor with Trust Mediation and other mediation providers, and a member of FOIL’s ADR Sector Focus Team

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