Edit: Whiplash reforms have now been delayed until 1 August 2020
Officially, the new portal for low-value road traffic accident injury claims is set to be ready for use by the public from 6th April 2020. However, this launch date has already been delayed numerous times and, in reality, the proposed April 2020 launch looks very unlikely.
The new portal is for injury claims arising out of motor accidents that are valued under £5,000. As a new compensation tariff is to be implemented, the vast majority of claims will now fall well below that £5,000 threshold. And, as claimants will no longer be able to recover their legal costs when succeeding with claims worth up to £5,000, the portal has been designed to help unrepresented claimants.
The portal will be called ‘Official Injury Claim’ and will be brought in under the Civil Liability Act and what have been labelled ‘the whiplash reforms’.
The public is being sold this new process on the promise that it will make it easier to make injury claims following a motor accident and will reduce their motor insurance premiums.
However, the detail actually means that injured claimants will be unable to instruct their own lawyer to represent them in these cases and their compensation will be much lower under the proposed lower compensation tariff due to be introduced. The average soft tissue injury claim is likely to reduce in value from £2,000-3,000 in compensation to less than £500.
Furthermore, one of the major questions remains: ‘what if the insurer refuses to accept my claim?’.
The new portal will only be designed to work in helping a claimant reach an agreement with the insurer where liability is admitted.
We regularly deal with cases where the insurer denies liability despite the evidence being stacked against them. As your lawyer, we can tackle that head on. But, if you can no longer recover the costs of instructing a lawyer for your claim and/or the value of your compensation is so low that it would not be viable to have legal representation, what will happen? The insurers know. Most contested claims will go no further.
A means of ‘ADR’ (alternative dispute resolution) has been the subject of discussions as there will need to be a fair and efficient method of having contested claims determined but, even this week, it seems that the insurers and Motor Insurers Bureau have acknowledged that there is no viable means of ADR as the costs of such would be disproportionate to the value of the claims due to the massively reduced tariff of damages that will soon dictate what successful claimants should be receive.
MoJ deputy director of civil justice David Parkin last month confirmed that the new portal is unlikely to be ready by 6th April 2020 and it has been suggested that October 2020 is likely to be the earliest possible launch date.
But, whilst there remains no system of having contested claims dealt with fairly, no approved new damages tariff and no official rules in place to govern the new portal and protect claimants, the insurance industry appears to be in the position of having secured the legislation it lobbied so hard for (to remove legal representation for most motor accident victims whilst also reducing the value of their claims) but currently unable to implement that legislation in a way that can at least be dressed up as fair and impartial.