Trade body calls for optimism on government’s RTA claims vision

This article first appeared in Insurance Business UK, 22nd July 2019

While the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, under the mandate of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), is busy developing a new personal injury claims service as part of the Civil Liability Act, several stakeholders have been offering their insights on the future of the road traffic accident (RTA) claims process.

Among them is the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), which is of the view that there has been a fizzling out in terms of meaningful stakeholder engagement as far as the development of the new system is concerned.

Meanwhile the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) last month sent a letter to Lord Chancellor David Gauke to raise a number of issues surrounding the upcoming Litigant in Person (LiP) portal.

Trade body calls for optimism on government’s RTA claims visionTrade body calls for optimism on government’s RTA claims vision“We are disappointed that the decision has been taken to have dual-operating portals, one for RTA whiplash claims below £5,000 and one for all other claims, rather than full integration,” wrote MASS chair Paul Nicholls. “This has long been considered the worst option available.

“It is unfortunate that the MoJ has chosen to cut corners in the development process in order to meet the politically driven deadline of April 2020, rather than taking this opportunity to develop a fully integrated, functional system.”

Reacting to the assertions, Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) president James Heath (pictured) told Insurance Business that while on the surface the misgivings appear to be reasonably voiced, they do not reflect the understanding MASS and APIL should have from their coalface involvement in the reform planning.

“From the outside, suggestions that professional users utilise the existing MoJ portal for all claims (leaving the new portal as purely a ‘LiP portal’) seem logical,” stated Heath. “Running two portals in parallel, without integration between the two, will lead almost inevitably to some duplication and increased costs.

“However, this proposal fails to recognise that claims within the scope of the new regime will have entirely different processes attached to them – including new pre-action protocols and Civil Procedure Rules, and separate requirements for the assessment of damages within the tariffs. All matters fully known to MASS / APIL through their stakeholder group involvement.”

The FOIL president believes the other groups’ recommendation would require radical change to the current MoJ portal to accommodate these provisions and channel claims down the correct process.

He declared: “Put simply, it would require a rebuild of the current portal at the same time as the developing the new portal for unrepresented parties. This is clearly not feasible.

“Rather than expending energy looking for alternatives to the government’s vision, the better route for professional users of all colour is to support the reform programme while investing internally in processes, structures, and systems that will enable lean, cost-effective, but high-quality handling, whichever route a claim follows – supported through internal technology investment, and enabling professional users to deploy a single integrated platform behind the scenes.”

Essentially, Heath’s plea is for everyone to be onboard.

“For the time being, we should all work on the basis that effective reform by April 2020 is still deliverable,” he said. “Though quite rightly that deadline should not come at the cost of unintended consequences – for claimants or compensators.”

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MASS promotes the highest standards of legal services through education and representation in the pursuit of justice for victims of road traffic accidents.