Law firm argues that OIC portal process is not a ‘disincentive’ because LiPs are ‘clearly able’ to submit and progress claims

By Editor Katie Scott

As the Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal has become more established following its launch in May 2021, the insurance industry has continued to lament the ongoing technological teething issues many firms are experiencing, as well as flagged concerns that litigants in person (LiPs) are failing to understand the portal or use it as intended.

Katie Scott_bw_path

Katie Scott

For example, data published by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau in April 2022 showed that there have only been 19,031 unrepresented claims made through the portal since May 2021, compared to 190,411 claims that have been represented by law firms or legal services businesses, for example.

This means that 9% of claims have been unrepresented and submitted by LiPs, with 91% of claims then being represented.

This is despite the fact that the OIC portal was specifically designed to empower LiPs to progress their own whiplash injury claims online following a road traffic accident (RTA).

However, findings from law firm Kennedys – based on data from its portal manager tool – appear to contradict the sector’s commonly recited narrative about the OIC portal’s functionality and usage.

Speaking at a webinar on 27 April 2022, Chris Stubbs, product manager at Kennedys IQ, said that LiPs “are making their way through the [OIC] process and they do not appear to be disadvantaged by being self-represented”.

In fact, he believes LiPs are “very well represented” and “are successfully achieving settlements through the process”.

Stubbs continued: “Those settlement numbers are comparable to the highest number for the top claimant representative.

“It’s also worth remembering that litigants in person are keeping 100% of their settlement as well – that may not be the case in some of the circumstances where they are represented.”

A ‘marked difference’

LiPs also appear to be successfully engaging with the OIC portal when it comes to submitting medical examination reports too.

Mike Gilpin, commercial director at Kennedys IQ, explained that regarding represented claims, 40% of claims submitted on the OIC portal around nine to 10 months ago are still waiting for a medical report to be uploaded.

However, Kennedys has identified “a marked difference” when it comes to LiPs.

Gilpin said: “The litigant in person is far more likely to have had that exam and submitted that exam [report] in quite a timely manner into the [OIC] portal - often just less a week after the exam itself, that exam is in the portal.

“They are progressing the claims much faster [than claimant representatives] through the process.

“Much has been said about how the OIC was a disincentive for litigants in person – I would argue [that] the OIC [portal] is the first time a litigant in person has had an option to go and pursue the claim themselves and secondly, they are clearly able to do it.

“Those claims are moving through the process in a timely manner.”

After listening to Insurance Times’ Fraud Charter attendees and other claims professionals across the industry, I had yet to hear a positive anecdote about the OIC portal since its launch.

But these stats from Kennedys depict a completely different picture to the skeptical view most in the sector adopt and, to some extent, prove that the OIC portal is achieving its mission statement after all.

The law firm did emphasise, however, that the OIC portal is still less than a year old and that keeping a vigilant eye on these data trends would be important amid the portal’s growing use.

Injuries adding up

Kennedys also took a deep dive into the injury types being recorded via medical reports submitted on the OIC portal, comparing this to data from the previous Ministry of Justice (MoJ) portal method.

Stubbs revealed that headache injuries have increased by 32% since the switch to the OIC portal, while the volume of chest injuries has grown by 19%.

Ian Davies, partner and head of motor at Kennedys, added that injuries defined as “slight tinnitus” are also gaining more traction. With awards for this injury amounting to around £7,000, Davies described this uptick as “small in number” but potentially “quite expensive”.

Gilpin, meanwhile, noted that medical reports within the OIC portal are increasingly citing separate neck and back injuries within whiplash claims, while the previous MoJ approach tended to focus around one injury site, rather than multiple pain points.

Psychological injuries are becoming more commonplace too, he continued. Prior to the OIC portal, around 38% of small claim notification forms (SCNFs) recorded a “psych event”, according to Kennedys’ data, but this figure has grown to more than 70% following the OIC portal’s introduction.

Davies agreed that “almost every” medical report now references a psychological injury.

Prognosis time is another factor that is slowly changing as a result of the OIC portal, Stubbs said. In Q1 this year, more claims came through with a 12 to 15-month prognosis time compared to Q4 2021 – an occurrence previously unheard of.

With whiplash claim compensation being directly linked to compensation time, Stubbs believes that the industry will start to see more of these longer prognosis times.

If anything, Kennedys’ webinar confirmed that the OIC portal is still a vastly contentious topic.

Although the law firm could support a more positive view of the portal’s usage with its own management platform stats, it still pinpointed a wide array of trends that show today’s whiplash claims and the claims progression process are very different to MoJ-led times gone by.

In turn, this could impact on insurers’ reserving for these types of claims.

With the OIC portal’s one year birthday this month, keeping an eye on all avenues of data will be essential to ensuring that the portal is fit for purpose for all stakeholders.