30 November 2020
MASS calls for urgent review of governance arrangements for the new Official Injury Claim (OIC) service
The Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) is today calling upon the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to urgently review the governance arrangements for the new Official Injury Claim (OIC) service which lies at the heart of the Government’s whiplash reforms.
From April 2021 anyone injured in a road traffic accident with a claim worth under £5,000, whether they have a legal representative or are self-representing, will have to pursue their claim through the new OIC service. The OIC service is independent of MoJ and will be operated by the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB), an organisation fully funded by the UK insurance industry.
MASS remains very concerned that with only months to go until launch, the MoJ has still not put forward plans for the established practice (as with Claims Portal and MedCo) of having an independent board responsible for oversight and governance for the new Portal service. Designed, funded, developed and operated by the insurance sector, we remain concerned at the lack of any external oversight or governance of the new service. Control and access to all future data and information in the new claims process will be in the hands of the insurance industry and MoJ alone. We have consistently fought for fairness and a level playing field in the future claims process and this extends to recognised principles of corporate governance.
Commenting on governance of the new Portal, Paul Nicholls, Chair of MASS, said:
“It is simply not acceptable to create a new RTA claims system wholly and independently run by and at the behest of insurers. MIB is not a neutral player in this process but an integral part of the insurance industry. It continues to be disturbing that the insurance industry alone will be the gatekeepers to the management and use of all future claims data and information.
We welcome recent comments from MoJ inviting stakeholders to set out their views, but MASS and others have raised this issue regularly over the last two years. Yet with only months to go until launch, it has still to be addressed. It cannot be left to sort out post-implementation as a nice-to-have but needs to be addressed in advance.
If next year the new claims process falls far short of being fit-for-purpose, claimant representatives will be necessary to help OIC navigate the many difficult and complex issues ahead.
This shouldn’t be a difficult issue to resolve. Both Claims Portal and MedCo have worked effectively with an independent board for oversight since their inception and this is a model that could be replicated for the OIC service.”
Since being established, the current Claims Portal (since 2010) and MedCo (since 2015) have each had a balanced board of representatives from across the sector and an independent chairperson. MASS and other volunteer claimant representatives have served on the boards of both the current Claims Portal and MedCo. Having worked together successfully for many years, the board members have developed productive working relationships and mutual trust enabling them to develop solutions and resolve problems. The MoJ itself has four Non-Executive or Independent Members on its Departmental Board. Cross-sector representation is vital to ensure that the claims process remains fair and justice is retained for the accident victim and their representatives.
As with the current Claims Portal and MedCo, MASS and other claimant representatives stand ready to continue to assist MoJ and MIB in the further development and operation of the new claims process in the interests of all motor accident victims, represented and self-represented.
Background to existing corporate governance arrangements
Official Injury Claim (OIC)
“Official Injury Claim is an impartial service and does not make any money from claims.”
Claims Portal Ltd
Initially introduced in 2010, all personal injury claims falling within its scope must be processed using the Claims Portal. Claims Portal Ltd is a not-for-profit company made up of 13 non-executive directors, including an independent chairperson. The Board of directors is equally balanced, with six representing the claimant community and six representing compensators.
The directors represent: Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS), Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Law Society of England and Wales, insurers and the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
In addition to the Board directors, other non-directors provide additional consultancy input on key issues that affect the efficient operation of the Claims Portal and user communities.
The Board is responsible for setting the Strategy, Finance and Governance of the Claims Portal. The Board also consider and approve changes to the Portal to improve its overall performance and functionality, as well as new developments as a result of changes to judicial procedures.
Since the implementation of the reforms to the medical reporting process in 2015 and the establishment of MedCo, MoJ stated that “We are also working with representatives from all interested sectors of the industry to develop an independent governance system to oversee both this new medical report commissioning system and a new accreditation system for medical experts.”
The MedCo system is operated by a non-executive Board of directors comprised of representatives with cross industry interests and an independent Chair.
Representatives include members from the following organisations: Motor Accident Solicitor Society (MASS), Association of British Insurers (ABI), Association of Medical Reporting Organisation, Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), British Medical Association (BMA), Forum Of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL), the Law Society and Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).
The Ministry of Justice Departmental Board
The MoJ Departmental Board has four non-Executive or Independent members sitting alongside Ministers and civil servants. [Ministry of Justice Annual Report and Accounts 2018-19’, Page42, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/corporate-governance-code-for-central-government-departments-2017]
The Cabinet Office/HM Treasury 2017 ‘Corporate governance code for central government departments’ states that:
“Good corporate governance is fundamental to any effective and well-managed organisation and is the hallmark of any corporate entity that is run accountably and with the long-term interest clearly in mind.”
“Boards help departments and government succeed in achieving their aims by encouraging good planning, managing performance regularly and raising delivery capability. They also help foster a culture of openness and good governance by providing a clear oversight structure.”
Notes for Editors
The Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) is the primary organisation representing road traffic accident solicitors acting for the victims of motor accidents. We represent around 100 solicitor firm Members throughout the UK, representing approximately 2,000 claims handlers, who handle an estimated 400,000 PI motor accident claims annually on behalf of the victims of those accidents.