As the UK treads the path towards personal injury claims reforms, it looks like the Justice Select Committee and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are heading in the same direction – reaching an agreement on the timeline.
It can be recalled that the Justice Select Committee had proposed a delay in implementation, to which the government has now responded to say that it concurs – pushing back its original date to 2020.
“We therefore recommend that the national roll-out of the new platform – and hence any changes to the small claims limit for PI claims – be delayed at least a further year until April 2020, and that the new claims process, including the support and guidance available to claimants, be subject to independent evaluation after three years,” said the Justice Select Committee in its report on small claims limit back in May.
In response this month, the government acknowledged the need to do things right the first time.
“The government has previously set out its intention to implement the reform measures as a package on April 01, 2019,” stated the MoJ. “The government welcomes the committee’s views on the importance of appropriate and suitable guidance and support for both claimants and defendants, something which the government has also discussed with stakeholders.
“The government is acutely aware that the proposed approach will fundamentally transform how whiplash claims are handled and that any concerns around access to justice have to be addressed promptly. There will need to be extensive user testing in order to ensure that the system is easy to use for all user groups and that the guidance is clear.”
The MoJ continued: “We agree with the committee and our stakeholders that it is crucial that these reforms and the implementation of the online platform is done right rather than quickly. This is why the government is now proposing for the platform to be ready for large-scale testing by October 2019 with the view to implementing the whiplash measures, including the rise in the small claims limit to £5,000, fully in April 2020.”
Fit for purpose
Reacting to the government’s response, campaign group Access to Justice (A2J) said it welcomes the delay, and spokesperson Andrew Twambley explained why.
“We welcome the government’s decision to delay implementation of the reforms until 2020 (five years after they were first announced), to ensure that the proposed online solution for claimants is fit for purpose,” said Twambley in a statement sent to Insurance Business this morning. “Injured people cannot be looked after on an ‘it will be alright on the night basis.’
“The delay will also give more time to implement the recommendations of the Insurance Fraud Taskforce, and prepare the legal expenses insurance market for the changes.”
The A2J spokesperson explained that creating, testing, and implementing new user-friendly technology to deal with injury claims is “enormously complex,” adding that “the government’s IT track record is dreadful.”
Twambley stated: “Ministers have yet to explain why a computer, built and administered by insurers, is a better bet for injured people than a legal professional who is 100% on the side of that injured person.”
Also, from the group’s perspective, there are better ways to balance the rights of injured people with the laudable aim of reducing fraud.
“There is still no solution for minor RTA claims where there is no admission of liability, meaning hundreds of thousands of injured people will fall out of the portal, and need an alternative,” said Twambley. “Ministers need to urgently address how they intend to deal with contested claims, and how this will be paid for.”