The Ministry of Justice has given its biggest indication yet that the April implementation date for the new RTA claims portal may be under threat.
Speaking today, MoJ deputy director of civil justice David Parkin conceded that talks are now ongoing between ministers and civil servants about whether the system will be ready to go live as intended on 6 April.
The Motor Insurers Bureau, which is creating the portal, last week unveiled the website and opened registration to claimant firms and insurers to register. But there remains widespread concern from all sides at the lack of detail about quantum, liability disputes and the supposed free ADR service for litigants in person.
Parkin told the Association of British Insurers conference: 'The aim of ministers and what they are working towards is implementation in April but I would stretch credibility if I came here and ended my words with that. It is clear we have policy issues to resolve still around ADR, treatment of vulnerable people and minors, work to do with the Civil Procedures Rules Committee and technical essential things, for example the laying of the whiplash tariff in parliament.
'The message is there is a lot to do still but we have achieved a hell of a lot. Ministers are still aiming for April but they are looking again at the timetable to make sure what we implement is the best we can be.'
Parkin was pressed on when the rules and pre-action protocol would be available, but could only say they will be published when they are in a 'fit state'. He stressed ministers 'are aware of the importance' to make a decision as soon as possible, with the implementation date roughly 10 weeks away. He said that to wait to test every eventuality that could crop up would be a 'recipe for utter failure'.
At the same conference, David Bott, senior partner of claimant firm Bott & Co, summed up the frustration lawyers are feeling at being told they need to prepare for change without being told exactly how the new portal will work.
Bott said: 'I don't know the rules, I don't know the value of the claim, I don't know how to get the work and what the value of the work will be and how much I make at the end. I agree I need to adapt but I would be surprised if I am in the minority that I am not ready because I don't have the tools to be ready.'
The new portal is for RTA claims valued under £5,000 and is designed to cater for litigants in person. It comes at the same time as the small claims limit is increased to that value, meaning claimant costs can no longer be recovered for those cases.