Claims experts confirm that Official Injury Claim portal is not being used as intended, with representation levels high as new process is live tested on claimants

By Editor Katie Scott

In December 2021, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published its second batch of snapshot data from the Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal, covering 1 September to 31 November 2021.

These figures proved that the OIC portal is still failing to fulfil its intended purpose of empowering litigants in person (LiP) to progress their own whiplash personal injury claims online, as during this specified reporting period, 91% of the claims volume on the portal came from represented claimants.

Katie Scott_bw_path

Katie Scott

This amounts to 62,126 represented claims submitted on the OIC portal between September and November last year, versus 6,233 unrepresented claims.

Since the OIC portal’s launch on 31 May 2021, 103,513 claims have been represented, compared to 10,564 unrepresented claims.

December’s data showed that the majority of represented claims on the OIC portal are being handled by law firms (75.3%), followed by licensed alternative business structures (24.5%). Only 0.2% of represented claims are being dealt with by claims management companies.

Fit for purpose?

Speaking at last month’s virtual Fraud Charter roundtable, hosted by Insurance Times, Carpenters Group director Donna Scully therefore said the OIC portal is not “working as a LiP portal at the moment”.

She explained: “There’s a lot of representation on here, there’s a lot of legal expenses insurance being used, so I don’t think it is working as a LiP portal at the moment.

“I don’t think it’s likely to work as a LiP portal. It’s just a new portal and we’re just trying to make it work. There are some big tech issues with it at the moment. The reality is we’re live testing, so it’s not ideal but it’s what we’re doing.”

This view is shared by David Nichols, UK chief claims officer at insurer Zurich. He told me at the end of last year: “I’m slightly surprised with how many of the claimants are still represented.

“In reality, this was about giving the customer the opportunity to be a litigant in person and to represent themselves and there is still a high representation rate.

“I don’t know what the main driver of that is at this point in time. Whether it’s a worry over using the application, or whether there’s something else – it’s surprising when you think about the intent behind the portal.”

Surely the fact that the OIC portal is not working as intended should be a concern to the MoJ and Motor Insurers’ Bureau, especially after the many months of work compiling the portal in the first place and the regular deadline delays in 2020 and 2021?

If the OIC portal was a commercial venture initiated by an organisation and it hadn’t met the intended scope of the project following launch, odds are the firm in question would already have gone back to the drawing board in an attempt to derive the planned value from the tool.

Why isn’t the MoJ and MIB doing the same thing? Is it simply because the portal is less than a year old and more data is required before diving into any redesign work?

Still swimming in muddied waters

There are still a lot of unanswered questions around the OIC portal’s functionality and use.

Scully noted that more guidance is needed from the Court of Appeal on subjects such as identifying exceptional circumstances and combined tariff and non-tariff injury claims, therefore test cases would be a useful starting point to help clear muddied waters.

She added that Carpenters Group is also lobbying for more fraud checks on the portal – she believes the lack of these measures within the OIC portal functionality is a clear opportunity lost, particularly as battling whiplash claim fraud was yet another of the portal’s original objectives.

Furthermore, the very specific question set used on the portal lends itself to identifying a number of injuries rather than just whiplash, Scully said.

For me, Scully’s point about the OIC portal being live tested is a really valid one. When a policyholder makes a claim following a road traffic accident, they will most likely be feeling vulnerable and in shock, especially if they have obtained an injury or their car has been written off – based on my own personal experience.

These claimants will most likely want to feel like they are in the hands of experts who can support them during this time, or will want access to a process that is simple and easy to navigate when they aren’t feeling 100%. Being guinea pigs for a new system that the insurance industry is still grappling with may not give them the confidence in the claims process that they might have wished for.