As our Chairman said recently in his MASS Insight Magazine article, this weekend’s launch of the new OIC portal and implementation of the Civil Liability Act, will be a major inflection point for the claims sector. The full impact of the changes may not be felt or fully understood for many months, but we all know that the changes will be profound for both practitioners and claimants.
Entering this new era of claims, MASS will continue to do all in its power to ensure that justice for accident victims is not prejudiced or disadvantaged by the new system. It continues to be our responsibility as an organisation to seek to protect vulnerable accident victims in pursuing the justice that they deserve and need.
Perhaps first and foremost, we believe that accident victims will be baffled and confused about how they can pursue compensation at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. With minimal communication being directed to consumers and little visibility of the promised third sector providers and charities able to assist unrepresented claimants, many accident victims will be uncertain about a legal process that can be complex with very many stages.
There will be many challenges and issues ahead that we intend to focus on and, as we have always done as an organisation, we will seek to engage constructively wherever possible to find solutions to problems, whilst challenging both policy and their implementation where we do not think the best interests of accident victims are being served.
We have long feared that the significant and much-promised savings from the reforms made by the insurance sector are unlikely to be passed on to consumers through reduced motor premiums. This was the key justification for the reforms in the first place. We anticipate that insurers will argue that with rising costs in other areas, such as repair, will negate direct premium reductions, but will say that premiums have not risen as much as they would have done without the reforms. Given the scale of financial savings made by insurers and the much-reduced compensation available to accident victims, we do not think that this is acceptable and will be arguing this case strongly as the Financial Conduct Authority starts to begin its statutory review of premium savings. The FCA will also have its hands full making sure that CMCs are appropriately regulated given that they now have full access to the claims process for the first time.
We have consistently argued that the tariff of damages is too low and that it should be closer to parity with previous judicial awards and shall continue to argue this case. With the Government having suggested that a review of the tariff could take place within a year rather than the three years as set out by the Civil Liability Act, we shall be seeking evidence to support our case ahead of representations on this important issue.
MASS is pleased to have been invited to participate on the MoJ’s OIC Advisory Group. This will better enable us to directly represent the views and experiences of our members and accident victims of the new claims process. How the large volumes of claims data and information generated by the new OIC is used and shared across the sector will be an important issue and we will be seeking reasonable and equitable access with all relevant parties.
The so-called Part 2 reforms relating to credit hire and other issues were put on the backburner whilst the OIC was developed and implemented, but with these issues likely to come to the fore in the coming months, with their absence from the new process highly likely to change claims behaviour, we anticipate that the MoJ will return to these issues during this next phase.
One of the key issues going forward will be how tariff and non-tariff injuries are determined by the judiciary. We are continuing to be part of the cross-industry discussions around this complex issue of mixed injuries and more information on this will be released shortly.
Having achieved so much in recent years to combat fraudulent claims, we remain very concerned at the prospect of increased fraudulent behaviour due to the way the new process has been constructed, the absence of existing fraudulent checks and the reduced role for legal checks. We will work with all relevant stakeholders to seek solutions and where necessary propose changes to the system.
It is encouraging that MoJ are going to introduce a governance system consisting of external stakeholder representatives to advise and assist in the development and operation of the new OIC.
The coming months will be a period of major change and adjustment for us all. MASS will continue to seek to advise our members on developments at the earliest opportunity and to advance the interests of accident victims. With the wide range of issues lying ahead, it is more imperative than ever that their voice is heard.