MoJ representative David Parkin insists that the system is ‘working relatively well’, despite acknowledging need for improvement

The Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal is a new system and is thus experiencing some expected technical issues, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) deputy director for civil justice and law policy David Parkin.

Responding to concerns raised by Carpenters Group director Donna Scully during March’s Fraud Charter roundtable, hosted by Insurance Times, Parkin noted that while there were problems with the OIC portal – and there “always will be” – the system was “working relatively well compared to a lot of IT systems”.

The OIC portal came into effect at the end of May 2021, intending to enable litigants in person (LiPs) to process their own whiplash injury claims following a road traffic accident, with claims awards based on a corresponding tariff table that aligns compensation with injury recovery times.

However, since its launch last year, the OIC portal has drawn widespread criticism from the insurance industry because of its perceived failure in achieving its intended goals, as well as having what Scully branded “major technical issues”.

For example, research published in May 2021 by Handl Group ahead of the portal’s launch found that between 90% and 95% of injured claimants set to use the new system would still be represented by law firms or claims management companies (CMCs).

Fast forward to 2022 and Scully explained that the proportion of claimants pursuing their own claims on the OIC portal had not improved.

She said: “There’s about 2% to 3% LiPs, up to about 9% to 10% if you include third party capture. We’re still seeing people predominantly wanting to be represented and looking for representation.”

Fraud Charter attendees reported a host of problems with the OIC portal process, including an inability to progress claims online in a timely manner, concerns over the exaggeration of injuries from LiPs and the snowball effect of claims not being progressed promptly impacting the cashflow of involved medical organisations, courts and compensators.

Teething problems?

Parkin noted that while he absolutely recognised that issues with the system existed, the OIC portal was a “brand new system with, ultimately, millions of claims on it”. 

“It’s not going to be perfect overnight,” he said. “No new IT system is.

“That’s not to say that there aren’t bugs or glitches. Does it work as well as it might? Absolutely not. Does it need to improve? Absolutely yes. But do I think that it’s not working and that customers are not getting compensation? No, I simply don’t agree with that.”

Parkin added that while he was wary of what he termed an “uber pessimistic approach” towards the system, he did “appreciate that the experience is quite mixed for many”.

Recognition of current OIC portal problems from Parkin and the MoJ was welcomed by Fraud Charter attendees, as was an indication that the OIC system would receive a “root and branch assessment” on the anniversary of the portal’s release, 31 May 2022.

“What we’re about is making sure [the OIC portal] works for everyone,” said Parkin. “If it’s not working for everyone, then we can make changes. If all the rules aren’t perfect and we want to be able to introduce things to make the system work perfectly, then we would certainly consider them.”

The MoJ is continuing to collaborate with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau to identify issues with the portal and seek to address them - both organisations will work together to complete an assessment of the OIC portal following its impending one-year anniversary.

Areas noted by Parkin as in need of review or consideration include throughput, litigative persons, settlements, user experience and the system’s basic data.

He added: “I’m sure there are blockages that need to be resolved, absolutely, but it’s about understanding that in the round.

“It is a problem of the system if the experience isn’t great for everyone and I do accept that.”

Exposure to fraud risks

Technical problems causing a backlog of claims waiting to be progressed is a problem itself, but also represents a risk in terms of potential fraud that may slip through the cracks.

Scully explained that an “avalanche” of cases stuck in the system could cascade into companies in an unpredictable manner because of technical issues.

She said: “There’s a worry about that avalanche situation and fraud because if the pipeline suddenly opens and all these cases come through, then it is much harder to vet them and handle them properly.”

The portal’s processes also presents risks of exaggerated claims from LiPs – especially as many claimants do not view exaggeration as insurance fraud.

“There’s definitely some concern around exaggeration on behalf of the LiPs themselves – there’s some exaggeration around bent metal, special damages,” explained Scully.

“There is a feeling [with some claimants] that ‘I’ve paid insurance for 10 years and this is the first claim I’ve made, so I’m going to make it a good one.’”

Scully clarified that exaggeration shouldn’t represent a problem where there was professional representation for claimants because they would have to justify any claims and provide receipts. She also hoped that medical reports, once completed, would mitigate the impact of potentially exaggerated injuries.

Offering his opinion on the risk of fraud in the OIC portal, Parkin noted that he was not unduly concerned about the portal’s risk factors.

He said: “One thing I want to say about fraud is that the system was never developed as primarily [an] anti-fraud tool.

“I’m not hearing any evidence at the moment that there are any significant fraud problems with the operation of the system. But again, that is something that we would need to examine.”

Performance issues

Scully added that Carpenters Group had seen a 70% reduction in settlements via the new system compared to the old one.

She agreed that although teething problems with the portal were to be expected, she “didn’t say anything about [the issues] for seven months because I know you expect technical issues. But this is a bit worse than that.”

Scully continued: “There are pretty substantial technical issues here, which we’re trying to work through with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau. There’s a lot of live testing going on with a lot of live people, which is obviously not ideal because of the huge backlog.”