Court bosses say they will start to test an entirely new and paperless system for personal injury claims within weeks.
Steven Chapman, head of civil claims and senior manager at HM Courts & Tribunals Service, said that from late spring lawyers will be able to use the online system for claims involving one claimant and one defendant.
Initially the online service will include being able to submit a claim, pay the court fee and receive notification of the issue date digitally. There will also be digital processes for filing the certificate of service and attaching relevant documents. The case will then be transferred to a local court to continue on paper, as per the current process.
Chapman, writing in the latest edition of the MASS (Motor Accident Solicitors Society) Insight magazine, said around 130,000 personal injury cases are handled in the civil courts each year. He said the paper-based process of filing documents in business centres and county courts can be ‘inefficient for us, impenetrable for the parties and exhausting for legal professionals’.
As part of its modernisation programme, HMCTS has already rolled out the online civil money claim service for claims worth up to £10,000, and says 89% of users state the process is quicker, easier and more efficient. Divorce and probate are also being used by lawyers through a single online portal, MyHMCTS.
For now, the courts service wants as many personal injury lawyers as possible to take part in piloting the service.
In the second phase, legal professionals will be able to do more digitally, including receiving direction orders, uploading witness statements, medical evidence and other documents, and provide listing questionnaire information online. It will also allow lawyers to upload or create digital bundles.
It is expected that the service will eventually include admissions, requests for judgment and the ability to make counterclaims or additional claims.
The system dovetails with the RTA claims portal set to go live in August for claims worth up to £5,000. Claimants who are represented will be able to issue a court claim through the online PI service if they need to, having progressed first through the portal.