UK takes the D-I-Y route on road accident injury compensation

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The launch of the UK’s online personal injury compensation service will, says Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC bring an end to 'greedy opportunism’, reports Law Gazette.

The Official Injury Claim online service went live this week as the small claims limit for road traffic accident (RTA) claims increases and a new system is required to help unrepresented people. The change means costs for claims under £5,000 are no longer recoverable, with a major knock-on effect for solicitors in the sector. Set tariffs are also imposed for all accidents on or after this date, resulting in claimants receiving considerably less compensation than previously.

The reforms are the culmination of a process that began in 2015 with a promise of changes in the PI sector by then chancellor George Osborne. Those were enacted through part one of the Civil Liability Act 2019, which brought about the tariffs and the increase in the small claims limit.

The legislation also banned the practice of seeking or offering to settle whiplash claims without first obtaining medical evidence.

After being delayed 13 months, the Official Injury Claim web site will now be handling claims.It was designed and tested by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), which will operate the system on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

Buckland said: ‘For too long the system for making whiplash claims has been open to abuse by individuals looking for an easy payday – with ordinary motorists paying the price.’

The MoJ described the new Official Injury Claim portal as ‘user-friendly’ – despite criticism of the 64-page guide for litigants in person – which it said would remove the need for ‘expensive lawyers’. A report on the Legalfuturessite quotes Gerard Stilliard, head of personal injury strategy at Thompsons Solicitors, who argued that the government ‘has done its very best to sneak these new rules in with as little fanfare as possible’.

He said most people were ‘completely unaware’ that if they suffered a road traffic accident they faced ‘having to deal with a complex online portal relying on a 64-page guide described by the Association of Consumer Support Organisations as “legal treacle”.’ ‘The only people to gain from these changes will be cold callers and shareholders of insurance companies,’ he said.

Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers, described it as ‘a sad day for justice’. He continued: ‘All available data shows that the supposed whiplash culture is a fiction, yet the government has ploughed on regardless…’ ‘How many claimants do they think will sift through 64 pages to guide them through their claim? Worse still, how will claimants know if their claim is worth more or less than £5000?… I doubt very much that any of us will see the £35 savings.’


Full UK Law Gazette report (Open access)


Full LegalFuturesSite report (Open access)

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