The parliamentary committee wants to investigate the impact of governmental reforms

The UK’s Parliament’s Justice Select Committee has called for evidence on the impact of the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) whiplash reforms and associated Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal.

The committee, which exists to examine the policies and spending of the MoJ, invited evidence on a wide range of impacts, including the number of minor personal injury claims seen since its implementation and whether reforms had reduced the cost of whiplash claims for the economy.

The MoJ’s OIC Portal came online at the end of May 2021 following a government effort to mitigate the large quantity of fraudulent minor injury claims being made following car accidents – it was intended to allow litigants in person 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.

Despite this, the majority of portal claimants continue to be represented rather than unrepresented, with the latest data showing that of a total 424,835 claims submitted since the portal’s launch, only 38,438 were unrepresented, while the remaining 386,397 claimants opted for representation in the process.

Specific questions

In December 2022, lawyers criticised the MoJ following the issuing of its report on the first year of the OIC portal’s operation, saying that the ministry’s stated aim to encourage litigants in person to engage with the portal had failed.

The Justice Committee has now called for evidence into its impacts and asked for the sector’s thoughts on specific issues, including the effect of raising the small claims track limit from £1,000 to £5,000, the ban on settling whiplash claims without medical evidence and the fixed tariff of compensation for whiplash injuries.

It also requested statements on why involved parties believe that around 90% of claimants continue to use legal representation when engaging with the portal and whether it was believed that the portal was “accessible and easy to use for claimants”.

The committee also asked for opinions on how timeliness could be improved upon for claims brought via the portal and whether the process was effective in settling claims for mixed injury claims.

Provisions of evidence must be submitted via the Justice Committee’s website before 5pm on 17 March 2023.

Vital opportunity

Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO), said: “ACSO warmly welcomes this call for evidence from the Justice Committee.

“It’s a vital opportunity to give Parliament a full picture of the performance of the OIC portal since its launch – Select Committees play a key role in holding ministers to account and we hope this delivers the chance for a sober assessment of the government’s whiplash reform programme and its impacts on injured people.

“ACSO has led the calls for this inquiry and it’s now essential MPs are able to interrogate the key players, including claimant practitioners, to understand whether the government’s aims have been met and, if not, what improvements and changes can be made.”

Andrew Wild, head of legal at First4InjuryClaims, added: “Road traffic accident claims have almost halved since 2018 but the promised savings for motorists have yet to materialise – insurance premiums have actually gone up.

“The portal has been so poorly marketed and plagued with issues that motorists could be forgiven for giving up, particularly when the average settlement time currently stands at more than seven months.

“An inquiry into the reforms has to be welcomed but, almost two years in, I hope this is not simply a box ticking exercise but rather a meaningful dialogue with lawyers and other stakeholders to genuinely improve a system which promised to provide access to justice but is so far failing miserably.”