Personal injury lawyers have urged the government not to be rushed into radical changes to the low-value claims system.
The government today closed its call for evidence and opinion on the future of the RTA Portal as it seeks to reduce the number of claims being made. The Ministry of Justice has already outlined plans to extend the upper limit of the scheme from £10,000 to £25,000 and to include public and employer liability cases.
Ministers are now keen to push ahead with a significant cut in the £1,200 maximum fixed fee that lawyers can claim from cases going through the portal. In its consultation response, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has urged the government to wait before tearing up the current terms of the portal. ‘We have serious concerns at the speed with which these reforms are progressing,’ said the organisation.
‘In particular, the aggressive timetable appears to be compromising the process, as it allows insufficient time for independent data collection and analysis, no time for proper procurement processes of new IT and inadequate build and testing time for new systems.
‘Without these steps, we fear the measures will fail.’
APIL did not respond to the government’s call for a recommended costs figure that claimant lawyers should be able to recover from portal work.
The current limit was settled after two years of negotiation between insurers and claimants and APIL says it should be for the industry, rather than government, to agree any changes. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has also declined to suggest a new fixed-fee limit at this stage, despite previously discussing costs as little as £150 per case.
James Dalton, head of motor and liability for the ABI, said: ‘The current £1,200 fixed fee is far too high and must come down. Tasks that were traditionally recorded in multiples of six-minute units are now executed by the click of a mouse.
‘The world has moved on since the fees in the portal were set and it is time the fees caught up with new business realities.’
The Ministry of Justice confirmed last week it will publish any potential changes to the portal by this summer. This will be preceded by a report by Nottingham University’s Paul Fenn on personal injury claims in England and Wales.