After a number of delays, the deadline for the new Official Injury Claim portal is looming, industry commentators explore whether the new portal will hit the mark, or fall short for claimants

WE ASKED: “What unintended consequences could be revealed following the implementation of the Official Injury Claim portal in May?”

Eddie Longworth, founder and director, Jel Consulting

Eddie Longworth

Eddie Longworth

”Insurers and claimant representatives are unconsciously conspiring to strip the personal injury claim of any real meaning in law and in context.

”In doing so, we are in danger of undermining the legal profession and bringing the insurance industry into disrepute. In the ‘race to the bottom’ to minimise costs, we forget that a real personal injury claim is not meant to be a conveyor belt of income generation.

“Insurers are not in the business of facilitating easy access to cash. Nor are they in the business of helping to line the pockets of so-called ‘advisors’, who exist to generate fees where none are needed.

”The new portal is a welcome operational development, but it does nothing to counter the prevailing mood that insurers are ‘fair game’.

“Paradoxically, the new portal will mean less scrutiny and judgement. As long as the right boxes are ticked at the right time, then virtually every claimant can expect a reward. We can expect the value of each claim will decline, but don’t be surprised to see a rise in the volume of successful applications being made.

”The portal is a good thing. The broader cultural consequences, not so great.”

Sam Elsby

Sam Elsby

Sam Elsby, president, Association of Personal Injury Lawyers

”The ’do it yourself’ nature of the portal could provide the perfect business opportunity for claims management companies that tout for claims by cold calling and texting, just as they do to those who have been mis-sold payment protection insurance.

”Opportunities to introduce an outright ban on these calls have been missed, namely in the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018. We could see a surge in nuisance calls and texts.

”The government’s intention has always been to reduce car insurance premiums by reducing the cost of injury claims. The impact on genuinely injured people did not seem important.

”The clear expectation set in the government’s impact assessment is that 85% of savings will be passed back to consumers. Based on past failures to pass on savings, it remains to be seen whether consumers will feel the reforms reflected in their premiums.

“But, consumers will notice if they are needlessly injured and find themselves navigating the new system.

”In many cases, they will learn that their needless suffering has been priced through a tariff to a derisory level of compensation. An unintended consequence for the government could be that these reforms transpire to be unpopular.”

Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director, Association of Consumer Support Organisations

Matthew Maxwell Scott, ASCO

Matthew Maxwell Scott

”The intended consequence of the government’s whiplash reforms was, in the words of their creator George Osborne, to ’remove over £1bn from the cost of providing motor insurance’. This would then largely be passed on to hard-pressed premium holders, a welcome reduction after years of increases.

”The simplicity of this planned policy outcome has not been reflected in the experience since. The reforms have been altered along the way and the information revealed has been, at times, limited, confusing, or even contradictory.

”Even now, just two months from launch, questions remain about how the changes will work in practice. An online portal designed for litigants in person feels too complex for most consumers.

Insurance fraud was once in the government’s crosshairs too, yet as a subject has been largely ignored. Insurers fear squeezing claims in one area will lead to more in other places.

”Consumer bodies rightly wonder about access to justice when lawyers have been taken largely out of the equation - especially how more vulnerable claimants will fare.

”Some issues may prove to be teething problems. Others may endure and necessitate tweaks or even wholesale changes to the new portal. Time will tell.”