ILC ARTICLE

ILC Industry leader interview: Mark Burton, Partner, Kennedys 


Claims inflation is having a huge impact on the catastrophic injury sector. Here, Mark Burton, Partner & Head of Serious and Catastrophic Injury, Kennedys, explains how his company is adapting to support customers and where he sees the industry going next. 

Can you tell us a bit about you – how you got into the sector and your career path to date? 

I trained as a solicitor in Birmingham. One of my training seats was in the insurance team and I was immediately hooked by the variety and human interest of liability claims. I cut my teeth investigating accidents and really enjoyed learning about different people and industry sectors. I moved to London when I qualified and have worked my way up through the value bands of personal injury claims. I have been lucky enough to lead on the defence of some particularly high-profile major losses, including the Hatfield Derailment, the Madonna Stage Collapse in Marseille, and latterly the Rugby Union Concussion Litigation.   

I am now the UK Head of Serious and Catastrophic Injury at Kennedys. In that role, I am part of the leadership group for our UK Liability Defence Division, I work with our team to develop claims solutions for better outcomes, and I personally handle some of Kennedys’ (and the market’s) largest and most complex catastrophic injury cases.  

Tell us about your business and how it supports the claims process/customer journey. 

Kennedys is the leading global insurance law firm. We have 75 offices or associations globally and employ over 2,500 colleagues. We therefore have the scope, scale and expertise to really make a difference for our clients, whenever or wherever you need us to do business.  

We also own an award-winning technology business, Kennedys IQ, which helps clients to manage claims more efficiently and to only instruct lawyers when you really need to.  

In the UK we have 13 offices with expertise in defending insurance and liability claims across all lines of business. We offer a global perspective, tailored for the local environment.   

In my practice area, Kennedys supports insurers and their customers to resolve catastrophic injury claims in a very modern way, and to seek wider opportunities to change the market for better outcomes, through a combination of technological and strategic innovations.   

We offer a different perspective and have pioneered various new approaches, such as digital forensics for investigation of a claimant’s personal devices and online footprint.   

What do you see as the challenges/opportunities for your business right now? And what actions are you taking as a result? 

The main challenge continues to be claims inflation. In the catastrophic injury sector, this is driven by general economic inflation, labour shortages in the care supply chain, and claimant lawyers seeking to push boundaries in relation to heads of loss.   

It is a rewarding time to be working in claims because there is a real competitive advantage to be gained from progressive claims handling strategies.   

Kennedys has identified a number of deflationary opportunities to offset the inflationary pressures, and is working with clients to push boundaries back in the other direction.  

What would be your prediction/s for the industry in the coming 12-18 months? 

For catastrophic injury claims, the latest review of the Personal Injury Discount Rate will be the most-watched development in 2024, including the potential for an upwards review or for a switch to multiple rates.   

The lead-up to the eventual decision will involve forecasting of the likely financial consequences and will influence settlement behaviours in the interim, including whether financially better for insurers to attempt settlement before or after the decision, and whether Claimants are more or less likely to accept lump sum compensation rather than periodical payments.  

What’s next for your business? How will this make a positive impact on claims? 

The compensation system for catastrophic injury is under real strain. Insurers are paying higher awards than ever before, partly due to a period of negative discount rates. The NHS has insufficient capacity and private hospitals funded by damages are filling the gap. The courts are overstretched and slow, so that private dispute resolution schemes and pre-action behavioural codes are increasingly important.   

There are succession issues in the expert witness market, because fewer clinicians are diversifying into medico-legal reporting. We are therefore exploring some creative process solutions, including emerging rehabilitation technologies, our own ADR schemes, and a fresh approach to the expert supply chain.  

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? 

At least 50% of lawyering is the service experience. Not every customer will know who is the best at law, but every customer will know who is the best to work with.  

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