As the Gazette went to press the Ministry of Justice was believed to be poised to announce a delay to the implementation of its much-vaunted reforms of the handling of whiplash claims. The RTA claims portal could be postponed as ministers and officials struggle to meet the 6 April start date.
Lawyers and insurers have grown increasingly sceptical about the MoJ’s chances of delivering on time as the essential pre-action protocol will not be agreed by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee until next month at the earliest. There has also been speculation the MoJ has not found a partner to operate its alternative dispute resolution function, which was supposed to offer unrepresented claimants an opportunity to check whether they have been offered a fair amount by insurers.
Insurers have publicly opposed any delay, but senior figures are thought to be concerned by gaps in the plans. Tariff levels for whiplash injuries are yet to be published, and there is still no clarification on how damages for non-whiplash injuries fit into the system.
Claimant lawyers would largely welcome a delay – possibly until August – but will be wary of continued uncertainty.
The Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which is responsible for the portal, said the start date is a decision for the MoJ, but it is gearing up still for an April switch-on.
A spokesperson added: ’Until informed otherwise, MIB continues to prepare the Official Injury Claim service to be ready for launch on 6 April.
’The registration window opened in January, with over 200 organisations registered in the first two weeks and pre-launch testing is almost complete. The next seminar events for claims professionals are in early March, where MIB will present more detail about how the Official Injury Claim service will work for customers and support professionals. Over 450 people have already signed up.’