The number of RTA claims filed seems to have fallen sharply since the introduction of the new portal – but fears about thousands of unrepresented people have not yet materialised.
The Ministry of Justice today published its first quarterly figures for the three months since the launch of Official Injury Claim at the end of May. Of 45,718 claims overall, 41,387 (around 90%) were from people who had legal representation.
Speaking at the Motor Accident Solicitors Society conference today, David Parkin, the deputy director for civil justice and law at the MoJ, admitted there used to be ‘hundreds of thousands’ of whiplash claims, but the ongoing issues around Covid and reduced numbers of motorists meant that direct comparison was difficult.
Injured people appear content to instruct a lawyer to represent them through the process, even though the portal is designed to be used by litigants in person and costs for claims under £5,000 are no longer recoverable.
In total, 30,658 claims (74%) were made through a law firm and 10,622 through an alternative business structure. Just 4,331 claims were brought by unrepresented people, while claims management companies handled only claims – despite fears that this market would grow as a result of the whiplash reforms.
As of 8 September, 436 claims started during the period had settled – the vast majority from unrepresented claimants. A further 2,763 claims exited the portal for reason other than settlement.
Before the portal was launched, there were concerns that insurers would be more likely to deny liability if claimants were unrepresented. The low number of LiPs makes it difficult to reach any conclusions on this, but during the quarter 21,680 claimants had liability admitted in part or in full by compensators, of which 19,366 were represented claims and 2,314 involved unrepresented claimants. Of the 2,447 cases where liability was denied in full, just 4% involved litigants in person.
Parkin said: ‘Transparency and scrutiny is absolutely vital in this online claims system. Our perception is that the system launch and the first three months have been relatively smooth for a government-associated IT system. It is not without teething problems but it seems to be working relatively well.’
There remains an issue over compensation for other injuries that do not fall within the boundaries of the new tariff system for whiplash. The OIC confirmed that just 33% of claims were tariff-only, with 61% being a mixture of multiple injury claims.
Also speaking at the MASS conference, David Bott, owner of north west claimant firm Bott & Co, said: ‘Up until the Court of Appeal says what damages are there is going to be a range of different behaviours. All the way through the process we cannot say to our clients what the value of the claim actually is – both sides are in this awkward position where nobody knows that value of a claim.’
Speaking at the annual MASS conference, new chair Sue Brown said: ‘It is unclear at this point whether [the low self-representing figures] are because claimants are deciding not to pursue claims, or whether it is because they are unable to pursue their claims without representation, unable to find the OIC or sufficient sources of information or advice, or for some other reason.
'It is early days but OIC seems to be working reasonably well for professional users, although there are real problems with A2A for both claimant representatives and insurers which need to be resolved. The system will be fit for purpose only when it works for everybody.’