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Portals in Time and Space

Now when I was a kid a portal was something we could only dream about – a doorway through time and space, a wormhole to a distant galaxy which we might one day be able to open to get around E = MC2 if only humankind could harness the power of a star.

Well the Ministry of Justice has cracked it already but sadly, its not what we all hoped for. With the assistance of chums in the insurance industry, out came not one but a whole series of portals. It was almost a case of buy two, get one free.

First, in 2010, we had the Claims Portal for injury claims from road traffic accidents up to £10,000 and which was then extended in 2013 to road accidents, employers liability and public liability claims up to £25,000; in 2021 we had the Official Injury Claims Portal not to be confused with the earlier Claims Portal and the later Damages Claims Portal, the latter being new name for the on-line County Court. Confused yet?

So why all these portals?

The Claims Portal of 2013 is finally working correctly and it does indeed speed up the system for claims resolution reducing the work involved by about 50%. Minor glitches which prevented a claims representative from printing off a form for signing prior to certifying it as printed off and signed have thankfully been resolved but the biggest downside of the Claim Portal is the iniquitous fixed recoverable costs regime, a denial of justice if ever I saw one. Fixed does not mean fixed in time ( though perhaps it should since the rates have predictably not shifted one iota since 2013) but fixed by reference to amount recovered, and the amounts vary from hardly acceptable to downright insulting but we have all noticed the benefits as motor insurers have fulfilled their promises to Dave’s Government to slash their insurance premiums to the bone, well, for a few hours anyway, before restoring them to pre-portal levels with an uplift for the administration costs of reducing them in the first place.

The real injustice though is the Official Injury Claims portal set up and going live on 31st May 2021 by insurance industry representatives for the MOJ to handle whiplash injury claims with a value of less than £5,000 and an overall claim value of less than £10,000. In such claims no legal costs are recoverable at all but that was not an issue for the Bullingdon club boys ( not a reference to HMP Bullingdon ! ) because claimants were expected to handle the claims themselves because there would be benefits, you see, it would be simplified, cheaper, faster and those annoying solicitors making sure their clients claims were settled fairly would be removed from the system allowing insurers a free reign.

And the result is…a system so complex that very few use it unrepresented. You just could not make it up! Of the 70,718 claims going through the Official Claims Portal in April to June 2022, 90% were represented so that is about 63,600 claimants who have agreed to forgo 35% to 50% of their compensation to an unregulated claims handler to handle the claim for them. It is also not faster either with whiplash claims mixed with other injuries now slowing the process down and overall claims have reduced. In a comparative period last year there were 101,679 whiplash claims so over a 30% reduction. And Claimant solicitors representatives begged the Government not to bring in this system but it went ahead anyway for another £35 off average premiums for car insurance. You’ve not noticed that either, I expect but that is down to inflation, you see, putting up the costs of motor insurance.

So, my advice to the Government, scrap the Official Injury Claims portal, scrap the whiplash tariff, extend fixed recoverable costs to meaningful levels and impose a set fee of £500 plus VAT for sub £5K claims

Stephen Brookes, Injury Claims Solicitor. Salmons

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