Uncertainty over PI claims portal as changes put on hold
Changes to the portal for handling personal injury claims have been postponed pending the government’s reform of the sector.
The Claims Portal had been due for two stages of development planned for April and December this year.
But following chancellor George Osborne’s (pictured) proposed reform of personal injury claims - including increasing the small claims limit to £5,000 and scrapping general damages for whiplash claims - those plans are now on hold.
In a statement released over the Christmas period, Claims Portal Ltd said current development ambitions have been halted while the government undertakes consultation on its personal injury changes.
The first phase, due for April, would have seen interim improvements to the service including more functions for users and easier access to ongoing claims.
The second phase, scheduled for December, was due to include the introduction of ‘user pays’, applying a charge to claimant representatives using the portal at the point of submitting a new claims notification form.
Claims Portal chairman Tim Wallis said: ‘We have decided to pause the current plan, including the introduction of the user-pays functionality, while the government undertakes a consultation on addressing the issues surrounding minor soft-tissue injuries and the small claims track legal costs.
‘We are reviewing the timing and content of the schedule for 2016 and will aim to prioritise the changes that will have the most benefit to users, such as the ability to transfer claims in bulk between organisations.’
The continued existence of a portal has been called into question if - as expected - lawyers are removed from personal injury claims valued up to £5,000.
A consultation on the reforms is expected in the first quarter of 2016, but the results will not be known for several months, leaving uncertainty over what will happen to the portal, which was itself only introduced in 2010 following agreement between ministers and lawyers’ and insurers’ representative groups.
Meanwhile, another of the government’s reforms concerning whiplash claims has been put back by two months.
The Ministry of Justice has extended the accreditation deadline for medical experts signing up to the MedCo scheme from February to April this year.
MedCo was set up to ensure high-quality and independent medical reports for whiplash cases, and according to a statement from the MedCo board, the MoJ has confirmed it remains an ‘integral’ part of the reform programme.
The legal requirement to source medical reports through the scheme will be unchanged by other reforms to the personal injury sector.