Legal expenses insurance coming to aid of solicitors in whiplash claims

Whiplash: LEI providing real value

Many solicitors are managing the claims going through the Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal with the support of enhanced legal expense insurance policies, a leading accident management firm has reported.

There are other solicitors, however, “who have chosen to cherry-pick the more significant injuries”, whilst directing claimants with lower-value claims to the OIC, according to Steve Molloy, director of commercial sales at AX.

Writing on the AX website, he echoed what some insurers have already reported about the vast majority of claimants being represented by solicitors in the OIC – the Motor Insurers’ Bureau’s (MIB), which is running the portal, may release the first official figures soon now that the first three months of operation have passed.

In advice to brokers, Mr Molloy said legal expenses insurance was providing “real value” to customers.

“Ensure that your legal expenses insurance policy provides small claims cover, but more importantly that the solicitors instructed are comfortable with the level of indemnity offered.”

Mr Molloy noted there have been several issues and delays in solicitors and insurers integrating their systems with the portal or attempting to communicate outside of the portal – an emerging issue raised recently by the Motor Accident Solicitors Society – “so there is a fear that a bottleneck of claims is building, which could cause issues with settlement periods moving forward”.

Other trends included an increase in non-whiplash injuries, including more complex psychological symptoms as well as tinnitus.

“This in turn is causing further delays in valuing non-whiplash type symptoms that fall outside the new tariff, where there is now a fear that this new process will drive more cases to litigation and therefore completely defeat the objective of the portal in the first place.”

Mr Molloy said search engines have also experienced a drop in accident and whiplash advertising campaigns; at the same time, “early signs show that fraud levels are reducing”.

In other news, a survey of 922 people commissioned by insurance trade publication Post found that – perhaps unsurprisingly – 94% of those who had not made a claim since the OIC’s debut on 31 May had heard of it; of these, 74% also said they would not know how to claim if they were involved in a car accident.

Of the 27 people who attempted to use the portal to make a claim, nine reported difficulties completing the process and four could not do it without help.

Finally, the Ministry of Justice has announced that the charities Law for Life and Support Through Court will represent consumers and litigants in person on the new OIC advisory board which we reported on last month.

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