The architect of the new system designed for litigants in person to run low-value claims has insisted the project is on track to meet its deadline.
Asked today at the annual Motor Accident Solicitors Society conference if the April 2020 implementation date was realistic, Dominic Clayden, chief executive of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, confidently replied that it was.
The portal is the key element of the government personal injury proposals, wrapped around the Civil Liability Bill. Ministers want to slash whiplash damages on a fixed tariff, as part of the bill, and at the same time introduce secondary legislation to increase the small claims limit to £5,000.
The next stage of the bill is the third reading in the House of Commons on 23 October, which is likely to be the final opportunity for MPs to make any changes.
The measures would effectively remove many lawyers from the claims system, meaning an online system has to be constructed that will enable injury victims to handle their own claims.
Clayden, whose organisation is the government’s delivery partner on the project, said swift progress had been made since stakeholders were brought together for initial meetings in the summer. Talks will be held with alternative dispute resolution experts in the next fortnight, before lawyers and insurers reconvene in December to finalise details of the proposal.
Clayden, a former claims director at insurance firm Aviva, told delegates in Sheffield that beta testing is on course to start in October, allowing designers and software engineers to have the system ready to use by April 2020, as the government has requested. He said: ‘When you look at this, it is not the most complicated process we will have seen. My overriding focus is on getting it delivered by April 2020 with testing in October next year. I’m expecting everybody to look at the first beta test and say it is rubbish – that is the point of the testing.’
Clayden’s positive outlook will come as a surprise to those who have doubted whether the government can have a robust system fully tested within the required timescale. It is also still unclear how those without internet access would make their claim.
Prior to his appointment at the MIB, Clayden spearheaded Aviva’s campaign not just to reduce whiplash costs but to remove lawyers from the small claims process altogether. In 2013, he said: ‘We are campaigning for a more efficient system that removes the “interested parties” and requires people to deal directly with the insurer of the at-fault party.’
Stephen Cavalier, chief executive of claimant firm Thompsons Solicitors, today urged MPs of all parties to consider the impact of the proposals on the rights of their constituents. He added: ‘The government concede that genuinely injured people will be put off bringing legitimate claims - workers will be priced out of justice.’