Defendants have been complaining about claimant behaviour they believe is intended to avoid the EL/PL portal.

The portal extension for employers’ and public liability claims has now been up and running since the end of July last year. So how effective is it?

Every month, Claims Portal Ltd - which runs the portal - updates its ‘executive dashboard’ to give a bird’s-eye view of the number of claims going through it, and the levels dropping out for various specific reasons. The latest figures are available here and worth a peek if you want to check that your own firm’s experience is in line with the wider industry.

The number of claims actually staying in the system does seem to be rising a touch, but high exit rates are clearly still an issue. Realistically, it is still too early to make a proper judgment on the success of the portal extension based on the figures.

Looking from the defendant perspective, defendants are broadly supportive of the EL/PL portal extension, and think the way it operates is getting better. But they are concerned about a rise in lower-value disease claims which attract hourly rates if they fall outside the portal – particularly claims for noise-induced hearing loss.

Some defendants have even accused the claimant side of engaging in deliberate strategies to try to avoid using the portal.

In its submission to the Civil Justice Council last March, defendant firm Kennedys said claimant firms were making allegations against more than one defendant, even when it was clear that there should only be one.

It reported seeing more claims for situational anxiety or psychological loss in the low-value sphere – noting that if this then prompted a challenge by the defendant, the claim would exit the portal.

Defendants also complain that claimants are not providing all the information that they should on the claims notification form – for example, missing off the national insurance number – and that they then try to avoid re-submitting the claim through the portal, and send a letter of claim instead.

These are some of the criticisms being levelled at claimants by defendants, but no doubt the claimant community will have its own list of complaints regarding lack of co-operation from defendants.

Turning to one final gripe coming from the defendant side, however, it is hard not to see some irony in the problem described.

Some defendants lament that – as the claimant market adapts to fixed fees and Jackson by getting bigger, more efficient, and more technology driven – it is now becoming almost impossible to get beyond the claimant firms’ automated systems and speak to a real person to discuss the claim.

That is progress for you.

Rachel Rothwell is editor of Litigation Funding magazine