The Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal is 98% complete, the chief executive of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) revealed today as he urged claimant solicitors not to dismiss the system prematurely.
Last week, the Ministry of Justice named 31 May as the launch date for the new regime and published all the rules.
Dominic Clayden was responding to criticism from viewers of an MIB webinar this morning which showed some of the screens litigants in person (LiPs) will face when making their claim through the portal.
The presentation sparked dozens of questions as well as comments doubting that LiPs would be able to navigate it easily.
Mr Clayden – who is speaking at next week’s special Legal Futures webinar on the new regime – said the portal has been reviewed at the Ministry of Justice, including by ministers, and the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, as well as going through user testing (112 people so far) and engagement with third-sector organisations such as Support Through Court.
Martin Saunders, the OIC’s head of service, showed how an onscreen side bar would support claimants by answering key questions as they moved through the system and explain difficult terms in simple language.
There have been two rounds of accessibility testing so far and all the feedback to date was that LiPs would be able to handle it, he said.
The plan is that registered users will be able to access a ‘portal training environment’ from early April so they can get to grips with how it works.
Mr Clayden said it was “premature” to pass judgment now. “My ask of everybody, before you pre-judge it, is to wait until you are able to experience it in April.”
Mr Saunders also doubted that there would be a “huge public awareness campaign” about the OIC; a lot would be done instead through existing gateways such as third-sector organisations.
Mr Clayden said more than 61,000 hours of development have gone into the portal, which was 98% complete.
While there were elements in the rules published last week that were unexpected – such as two tariffs, one where there is a minor psychological injury and one where there is not – they could be incorporated without delaying the launch on 31 May.
Mr Clayden said there should be 30 staff in place to operate the contact centre by then too.
Mr Saunders said the system would populate court forms for the claimant in the event their case has to leave the OIC and go to court.
All claims will be filed in Salford before being transferred to an appropriate court; a training programme is being organised for the judiciary.
Non-injury elements of a claim, though not covered by the new regime, will be captured in the portal as ‘non-protocol vehicle costs’.
There remain issues, for example around claims with a mix of tariff and non-tariff injuries, and Mr Clayden said this would be “one of those limited areas where there will have to be judicial guidance”.
Speaking at November’s PI Futures conference, David Parkin, deputy director of civil justice at the Ministry of Justice, said: “The government is quite happy and willing to support a test case that might go to court to try and resolve how best [mixed claims] will be valued under the new system.” However, he recognised that this could take some time.
Asked how LiPs could be expected to know if their claims were worth more than £5,000, Mr Saunders acknowledged: “It’s really difficult for any of us to understand what an injury is worth a week into the accident.”
There will be “various triggers” in the OIC to remind people about quantum and it will be addressed in the guidance too, but he predicted that “there’s going to be a bit of tension in this area”.
In the event of alleged fraud, which is a cue to exit the OIC, the compensator will have to set out the allegations in detail so that the claimant can see what is being said.