Litigants in person continue to shun Official Injury Claim portal

Brown: Some claimants may be unable or reluctant to pursue claims through the OIC

The number of claims begun in the Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal increased in the second quarter of its operation but once more fewer than 10% of them were brought by litigants in person (LiPs).

The Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB), which runs the OIC, yesterday published operational data for the three months to 30 November, which confirmed trends indicated by the first quarter figures.

There were 68,359 claims registered on the portal in the quarter, up from 45,718 in the previous three months. The number of new cases is increasing monthly, which in part is likely to be down to “a staged approach to initiating claims on the new service being utilised by some professional users”, the MIB said.

The proportion of cases progressed by LiPs fell slightly, from 9.5% to 9.1%.

Since launch, just 16 claimants have started a claim via the OIC’s assisted paper claims process, while the number of cases initiated by claims management companies was again very low – just 108, compared to 101 in the first quarter.

Once more, a third of the claims were covered by the whiplash tariff but a small increase (from 61% to 65%) were ‘mixed’ claims that also include non-whiplash injury. Only 4% of claims had no tariff element to them.

The plan is to expedite test cases to the Court of Appeal for guidance on how mixed claims should be handled, but there remains no timeline on this.

While, in the first three months, almost all of the small number of settlements had been reached by LiPs, they accounted for 52% of the 3,468 claims that settled since September.

The average time to settlement was 83 days, and the MIB said the settlement data would take a considerable time to mature. “A more rounded consideration of settlement time is unlikely to emerge before the end of 2022”.

There was again a disparity over requests for the damages uplift of up to 20% that is available where either injuries or circumstances are exceptional: while 40% of LiPs sought it, only 24% of represented claimants did.

Where claims have exited the portal, complex issues of law were the main reason for 49% of represented claimants and 34% of LiPs; perhaps surprisingly, an allegation of fraud was a bigger reason for represented claimants (17% of exits) than LiPs (11%), although a similar number of LiPs simply discontinued their claim, compared to 4% of represented claimants.

Of those claims where there was a liability decision during the quarter, 81% of represented and 94% of unrepresented claims had liability admitted in part or in full, continuing the pattern seen in the first set of data.

Strikingly, though causation was disputed in 1,478 of 38,835 represented claims where a liability decision was made, or 4%, for LiPs the figure was just one out of 3,296.

The portal support centre received 1,097 enquiries from professional users during the quarter and 3,222 from LiPs.

Sue Brown, chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society, said: “Whilst the fact that over 90% of claimants are able to find solicitors to represent them is of course good news, the low numbers of unrepresented claimants in conjunction with the overall low volumes of claims may suggest that some claimants are unable or reluctant to pursue their claims through the OIC.”

She questioned too the length of time settlements were taking, adding: “We also have a number of questions around why claims are exiting OIC and will be taking these up directly with MIB.”

Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations, said: “While much of the broader trend data is unremarkable, it is becoming ever-clearer that the ‘user-friendly’ OIC portal promised by ministers is complex, legalistic and difficult for claimants to use without professional support…

“Added to this is that there’s been a significant, month-on-month increase in the number of litigants in person asking the portal support centre for help, while calls from professional representatives have dropped sharply.

“This suggests that while professionals are getting used to using the portal, LIPs simply are not. This may be a good time for ministers to revisit the 68-page portal user guide.”

Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers, said: “There is nothing in these latest figures to cheer.

“Once again, fewer than one in 10 claims were brought by litigants in person and only a third of cases involved just whiplash injuries, while settlements of presumably simple cases are taking nearly three months – the only improvement on the old system has been to insurers’ bottom lines.

“We urge the government not to be passive in the face of these troubling statistics and conduct a full review of the Official Injury Claim portal after its first year of operation to see how it can be made to work better for injured people.”

    Readers Comments

  • Stephen Brookes says:

    It is not justice when litigants in person find the system too complicated and have to fund lawyers’ costs from their own damages. The whole issue of no recoverable fees in the OIC portal and fixed recoverable fees in the main portals needs urgent reviewing. I seriously doubt the moral compass of anyone who considers this to be a just approach.

  • Michael Poole says:

    I seriously doubt the moral compass of anyone who thinks someone should get £3k compensation, or indeed anything at all, for “whiplash”.

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