It’s a safe bet that on a glorious bank holiday weekend the British public did not notice any major reforms to lower value personal injury claims.
Anyone interested in finding out might not have been much better informed about national media headlines such as’ New Rules to Tackle Fraudulent Insurance Claims’ (BBC) and ‘Motorists Plan to Save $ 1 Billion of pounds in cracking down on bogus whiplash claims ”(ITV).
The reality of the changes that will take effect on May 31 is that all whiplash claims are now subject to a flat rate of compensation and RTA claims valued below £ 5,000 are subject to the limit for compensation. small claims. In short, applicants can expect to receive less and may have to act for themselves.
The government has welcomed the advent of reforms and the launch of Official Injury Claim – the lower value RTA claims processing portal – by reiterating insurers’ pledges that motorists will benefit on average from £ 35 better each year.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC has said that for too long the whiplash claim system has been “open to abuse by individuals looking for easy pay – motorists pay the price.” price ”.
However, critics quickly spotted problems. Complexity is an issue, with self-represented litigants having to rely on a 64-page guide to presenting their claim. Richard Miller, chief justice at the Law Society, said there were “serious concerns” about the ability of unrepresented claimants to use the portal. Attorney and law firm owner Kerry Underwood, in a series of Twitter posts, called the document a “ramble.”
The issue of hybrid claims, where a victim suffered a whiplash stroke (subject to tariff) and a non whiplash injury (which is not) remains unresolved.
The government’s approach is that judges and courts should decide where compensation levels should be set, which will inevitably result in test cases being resolved by the Court of Appeal. Representatives of plaintiffs’ lawyers and insurers work together to identify cases that might be suitable.
“Under liability law, assessing hybrid claims is now virtually impossible,” said Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organizations. “This leaves applicants and their representatives in a legal no man’s land, uncertain whether or not to accept an offer.”
Concerns have also surfaced about how easily scammers could set up a copycat website to trick people into giving personal details believing they are making a claim.
Meanwhile, legal businesses just need to get started. As the news media trumpet the government’s dubious line that PI reforms will reduce auto premiums, injured people face a complex and confusing system for compensation claims companies have shut down or stopped processing lesser value claims, but the biggest providers have refined their business plan believing they can make it work – even on the suffocating margins of the new tariffs.
Cardiff-based NewLaw welcomed the creation of its own pilot portal, a structured online process to help applicants collect the necessary information, submit their claims and track progress. The National Accident Law, which now handles these claims rather than outsourcing them to other companies, said it introduced “new systems, a full digital path and improved triage capabilities” to reduce paperwork and simplify processing. complaints process.
Claims handling company Call Brian has vowed to ‘disrupt’ the government-run portal with its own 24-hour service, performing identity checks, preparing mandate documents, sending prosecution messages. automatic and by scheduling medical appointments. The company said users will be able to submit their claims within nine minutes rather than having to go through the official injury claims website themselves.
National law firm Slater and Gordon unveiled miplatform, designed to offer clients the use of a suite of legal services in a single digital product. It will be deployed for family law, property transfer and other legal services, but for now it is only available to guide applicants through the portal process. Managing Director David Whitmore said users “can be confident that leading legal experts are handling their claim, backed by cutting edge technology built around their needs.”
Ultimately, the government expects the number of applications to decline as a result of the reforms. True, some unrepresented claimants, faced with a portal they have to navigate on their own, and with the prospect of lesser damage in the end, will give up entirely. Law firms still in the market must hope that they can persuade enough people to stick to their claim and be prepared to share a portion of their relatively modest compensation in return for helping them through the process.