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Will we be ready for claimants to take back control? The clock is ticking…

There’s a deadline fast approaching and still too many doubts remain over whether the necessary decisions will have been made in time. If the pace of preparations fails to quicken substantially, the general public stands to lose out.

I’m not talking about Brexit but a looming deadline of another kind which has its own technical, legislative and planning hurdles to overcome – the start of the new personal injury compensation system for small claims and the claimant portal that will accompany it.

The insurance industry and colleagues at the Motor Insurers’ Bureau are hard at work preparing for the new system, but there remain many missing pieces which are still required for the system to work as intended and for the consumer benefits to accrue that were envisaged when passing the Civil Liability Act.  After so much hard work to get to this stage, it’s crucial that all eyes remain focused on delivering a system that meets expectations.

We know all too well how adaptable rogue claims management companies can be when it comes to identifying new avenues of income to exploit. Given that, steps need to be taken quickly to prevent disproportionate compensation for minor injuries such as bruised knees and sprained wrists.  With whiplash injuries set to be capped from April 2020 under new tariffs, there is a real danger that displacement into “minor injury” claims will take place and that the expected savings from the whiplash reforms will be lost. Action needs to be taken swiftly to give clear guidance on how to provide a proportionate valuation to minor injuries, otherwise the risk is that the new Portal gets clogged up in dispute before it even begins.

Separately, it’s been decided that an alternative dispute resolution process needs to be available within the new Portal for unrepresented claimants who want to get a second opinion on the outcome of their claim. A key function of the new Portal is to allow people to take forward their claims without the need for a legal representative acting on their behalf, so a dispute resolution process for these claimants makes sense.  However, work to deliver that cannot get under way until important decisions are made on what it will entail and how it will operate. Answers are also needed quickly on how the current system for providing independently accredited medical experts will be adapted to allow members of the public to obtain a medical report.

The reforms in the Civil Liability Act set the right framework for fixing the current broken system of whiplash compensation in this country, putting the interests of claimants first and stripping out excessive costs in order to ease the pressure on insurance customers’ premiums. Faced with the many political distractions of recent years it is to the Government’s credit that this new legislation made it through Parliament.

However, with the new system due to go live in just eight months, the task is far from finished. It is not too late to make the decisions required and get the rules in place for an April 2020 go live. We owe it to injured claimants to make sure everything is ready for them to access a simplified system that allows them to obtain compensation. Insurers are doing everything in their power to prepare for a successful launch – but that simply won’t be possible unless the regulatory foundations are in place that will allow the Portal to be a success.

This blog originally appeared at Post Online here.

 


Last updated 07/08/2019