A personal injury firm has accused the Ministry of Justice of double standards for failing to use the RTA claims portal but applying the fixed costs regime associated with it.
Manchester-based firm Express Solicitors is acting on behalf of 10 prison officers injured in two separate road traffic accidents in May 2013.
From 31 July 2013, the Ministry of Justice made it compulsory for all law firms and insurance companies to use the portal – an electronic communication tool for processing low-value personal injury claims designed to resolve claims faster and at lower cost.
The prison officers’ case is classed as an RTA rather than an employers’ liability claim. But the defendant, the MoJ, is not using the portal as it has not signed up and therefore has no presence on it.
However, the claimants’ solicitors said the ministry still expects it to charge the significantly lower fixed cost fees associated with the portal. As the firm has put in costs for a claim pursued outside the portal, the ministry has not agreed them or paid medical expert and GP fees.
In a letter to the firm, Paul Martin for the Treasury Solicitors Department, said: ‘Although the Treasury Solicitors Department has no presence on the MoJ portal, we consider that provided the appropriate time limits are adhered to, the fixed costs regime for low-value RTA personal injury claims will apply to this claim and trust that you agree.’
Rachel Flannigan, head of the RTA department and partner at Express Solicitors, accused the ministry of ‘double standards’ and said its conduct ‘beggars belief’.
‘We’re absolutely gobsmacked that the MoJ is not using the claims portal it set up and forced everyone to use. The lower costs for using the portal is an incentive to be on it, she said, but if you are not on it, clearly the portal protocol with set time limits and fees, cannot apply.
She added: ‘If the defendant doesn’t admit liability or comply with any other of its stipulations, the case is taken outside of the portal and costs go up due to the increased interaction between the claimant and defendant.
‘That’s how we work now, but we receive letters telling us the MoJ is not on the portal, we must deal with this case outside of it, but charge the lower fixed fees.’
An MoJ spokesperson said: ‘We are not able to comment on this ongoing case. The claims portal was extended as part of successful work by the government to turn the tide on compensation culture and bring down the soaring costs people were facing for insurance premiums.
‘This has already seen dramatic impacts, with the average quoted motor insurance premium falling by £120 in the past year.
’We want claims to be settled quickly and at proportionate cost for the benefit of all parties, and the time limits have been set to help achieve that.’