Consumers “growing in confidence” to manage own PI claims

Car accidents: Consumers not confident about going to court on their own

The proportion of road traffic accident victims who would be prepared to submit personal injury (PI) claims themselves has hit more than half for the first time, a report has found.

Meanwhile the percentage of PI claimants who shop around for advice has reached 49%, the use of search engines gaining strongly in popularity.

The government is planning to introduce an online portal for personal injury claims by litigants in person (LIPs) after the small claims limit for whiplash cases is increased to £5,000 in April next year.

This year’s UK Personal Injury Consumer Research Report by IRN Research found that 53% of consumers would be willing to submit claims themselves to the portal, compared to 43% in 2019.

A large minority felt confident that they could show evidence the accident was someone else’s fault and find relevant medical experts, but consumers said the part of the process they would find hardest was representing themselves in court.

Just under a third (32%) said they would “always use” a lawyer to represent them when pursuing a claim, a five-point increase on the previous year.

Almost three-quarters – a rising number – said they had money deducted from their damages, an average of £350.

IRN’s research was based on a survey carried out this summer of 514 adults involved in a personal injury or clinical negligence cases.

The report found that almost half of claimants (49%) shopped around for their legal adviser, a big increase on the figure of 35% in 2018.

Web advertisements were the single most popular source of advice at 18%, but this was a fall of 2% from the year before.

All other web channels were more popular. Use of search engines increased from 9% to 15%, contacts obtained from social media rose from 10 to 14%, while use of online price comparison sites and web directories of lawyers was on the rise too.

However, advertisements in the print media retained second place, with 16% of consumers citing them as their source of legal adviser.

Speed remained the most important factor for claimants when choosing and using a legal adviser, cited by 36% of claimants, though this year it had to share first place with “helpfulness and friendliness”.

Cost was viewed as less important, falling from joint top to third place with 32%, while a lawyer’s experience was mentioned by only 26%.

The only service criterion that failed to improve its score was the rating for explanation of the financial risks involved at the start of a case.

Claimants were reluctant to say they would take part in online court proceedings, if these were as effective as physical ones. Only a third (32%) were willing.

Online medical examinations were much more popular, with 49% prepared to take part, while 34% were comfortable with the idea of online rehabilitation.

Researchers commented: “Covid-19 has seen more online court hearings, online medical examinations, and online rehabilitation programmes taking place but the jury is out on whether claimants would want these to become the usual way of doing this.”

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