Natalie Harvey, one of our personal injury experts, comments on the challenges caused by the Official Injury Claim Portal – which came into force 12 months ago today as a result of changes to the small claims limit.
What impact did the introduction of OIC portal have over the last 12 months?
“We have faced numerous difficult and unnecessary challenges. The notion that this system is easy to access and understandable for lay people is nonsense.
“We were not prepared to allow our clients to walk off a cliff when the new system came in and that meant they should get the same level of necessary legal support after 1 June 2021 as they did before. To deliver that - and not abandon our clients to navigate a so-called 64-page guidebook that the Association of Consumer Support Organisations called “legal treacle” - needed heavy investment to update our case management systems so they aligned with the OIC portal, as well as significant staff retraining.
“The government snuck out the rules with almost no fanfare because it didn't want to draw attention to the fact that without representation, the portal and its guidebooks are almost impossible to decipher. The only conclusion we can draw is that it did not want – and still does not want – it to be easy for an injured person to make a claim.
“That by any measure is about restricting access to justice.”
Is the portal working as it should be?
“Just about. But from the significant number of updates and bug fixes over the last year, it is clear that this was rushed out unnecessarily early.
“Even now, our teams have to cope with glitches that slow down what is meant to be a ‘simplified’ system. So, for example, the ‘remember me’ function seldom works, which necessitates each team member having to go through separate authentication processes. Worse still, once you reach certain milestones in the process you cannot return and edit fields, which may mean that a simple human error may require an entire claim to be abandoned and started from scratch.
“If this is a headache for our legal experts working on it full time it must be nigh on impossible for those without legal training for whom this portal was supposedly meant to cater to.”
Natalie Harvey, our personal injury expert
What challenges did you encounter over the last 12 months?
“These claims still have the same evidential issues as any other road accident claim and insurers appear to be approaching the management of them in the same way as they would any other case – so, we are seeing a lot of unreasonable questions outside of the OICP as well as arguments around causation and quantum (non-tariff injuries). The system is too unclear where further medical evidence is required, and we have had tedious arguments with insurers about keeping cases in the OICP when clearly they are no longer suitable.”
Are claims volumes what you would expect them to be? If not - why not?
“Although we are aware of the dramatic fall in motor claim numbers overall our RTA case intake has remained relatively steady. We think that is because most people don’t know about the changes and, all our RTA clients are supported by their trade union they have simply been contacting us for help in the normal way. Many trade unions have committed to covering the cost of these claims within the new portal so the trade union claimant will not see the negative consequences of the changes.
“For others who do not have that support, they are left to navigate a very complicated system and, for the amount they can expect to recover, we suspect many simply do not bother.”
Is the cost of whiplash claims reducing?
“Certainly, for the insurers it will be.
“The dramatic drop in motor claims along with the pitiful amount of damages injured claimants can now recover - as well as the removal of any claimant legal cost liability -must reduce costs for the insurers significantly.
“For those of us representing claimants, the costs of pursuing a claim are no less – we must still carry out a substantial amount of work to ensure we secure the best possible result for our clients.”
Do you think there is enough awareness of the portal?
“The lack of publicity around the change in the law and the launch of the OICP is very evident when clients contact us to make a claim - most people know nothing about it. This was something we commented on 12 months ago and nothing has changed.”
Natalie Harvey's comments were featured on Insurance Post on 31 May 2022.
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