George Osborne’s as yet undelivered (yet well-documented in the meantime) proposals for reforming the personal injury claims sector has meant that the government’s own dedicated Claims Portal’s staggered revamp – factored in to take place in two phases during the course of 2016 – has been put on hold; pending the Chancellor’s reforms being ratified and put into place.
The Ministry of Justice first launched the ‘Claims Portal’ stakeholder solution website back in 2010 (in the aftermath of an agreement between ministers, lawyers’ and insurers’ representative groups), which is essentially a not-for-profit company comprising of 13 non-executive directors and an independent chairperson.
The core directors have backgrounds in (and collectively represent) a variety of insurance related and specific sectors including the Law Society, the TUC, the insurance industry and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).
However due to the postponement of personal injury reforms being forthcoming, the Claims Portal revisions planned – originally slated for phasing in during April and December this year – have been put on indefinite hiatus until such time as the government cements its visions for the personal injury claims sector in law.
As per an official statement released over the Christmas period, and as reported by www.lawgazette.co.uk since, Claims Portal confirmed that website revamping had been placed on hold whilst the government completes its consultation on the very subject in which the service provider specialises in conveying information, guidance and assistance on.
One of the main changes that the Chancellor is keen to push through in terms of personal injury claims reform is increasing the existing small claims threshold from its current £1,000 to the £5,000 mark, as well as eliminating general damages for the ever-contentious area of whiplash claims. Both of which have now been put on the back burner for the time being.
Looking at the alterations which Claims Portal wished to make to its well-subscribed to web presence, and the Law Gazette highlights that April would have ushered in service improvements such as increased user functionality and easier access to ongoing claims. December’s changes on the other hand would have concentrated on the unveiling of ‘user pays; which ostensibly would apply a charge to claimant representatives facilitating the portal at the juncture of submitting a new claims notification form.
Reasons as to why the government has reached a seeming impasse – and ergo entered into a period of further consultation – appear to be on the grounds of issues surrounding minor soft-tissue injuries and the small claims track legal costs, according to Tim Wallis, who is the Claims Portal Chairman. He also goes on to say; “We are reviewing the timing and content of the schedule for 2016 and will aim to prioritise the changes that will have the most benefit to users, such as the ability to transfer claims in bulk between organisations.”
Another bone of contention for some is the underlying fact that should – as expected – lawyers find themselves removed from the personal injury claims equation (in the event that the case is valued up to £5,000), then the very existence of the portal itself could be put on the line. Which explains why it’s biding its time to determine the outcome before engaging in the additional site roll-outs. With the consultation period pencilled in for the first quarter of 2016, results won’t come to bear for a number of months thereafter, taking us into well into next summer, which leaves question marks hanging over the portal’s future per se.
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