Whatever your political persuasion, the decisive result of the general election in December may mean a welcome period of relative political stability. For sure, political disputes and crises will inevitably lie ahead, but the sustained political turbulence may now be behind us as we enter a new decade.
For anyone working or needing to use the claims sector though, the turbulence and instability may only be about to start. Despite the election period, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau insist that their work has progressed and is on course to deliver the new Portal ready for implementation in April. They remain confident that the tests conducted demonstrate that the new process is fit for purpose. Whether the Ministry of Justice is ready to press the go button remains to be seen.
It almost certainly shouldn’t unless it can be demonstrated that substantial progress has been made. Many central issues remain unresolved. The dilemma of handling mixed or multiple injuries remains. It is still not clear what happens when a claim is complicated by disputed liability or there are duplicate proceedings. The details about how ADR will work for unrepresented claimants is unclear and we still have the unfair disparity of it not being offered to represented claimants. There are still no apparent plans for independent governance, oversight and stakeholder scrutiny of the new Portal, as with both the existing Claims Portal Co and MedCo. Crucially it is not clear that the judiciary and the Civil Procedure Rule Committee have agreed the accompanying rules and pre-action protocol (PAP).
Meanwhile, the fundamental flaws remain. For reforms originally about reducing fraud, the new process is tellingly light on anti-fraud measures. CMCs welcomed into the system for the first time. The serious mistake of not integrating rehabilitation, credit hire and repair costs, creating significant loopholes. We still don’t know how the digitally excluded will be able to pursue claims outside the Portal, other than a basic helpline providing advice on using the new Portal.
To pursue April 2020 as a target date without resolving these issues would be reckless and highly damaging to claimants. We remain steadfastly opposed to the reforms, but if they are to proceed, MoJ must ensure that vulnerable motor accident victims are protected from the outset. This will continue to be our driving force throughout 2020.
Paul Nicholls, author of ‘Turbulence ahead for the claims sector’ is Chair, Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) and Senior Partner at Nicholls Brimble Bhol Solicitors
This article first appeared in Modern Insurance Magazine, Issue 42, February 2020