The Ministry of Justice needs to investigate why there is a growing number of unresolved cases in the Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal, MPs said today.
The justice select committee also urged the government to set out how it planned to resolve the technical problems that have bedevilled the system since its launch on 31 May 2021.
The cross-party group has paused its review of the whiplash reforms pending the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on mixed injury cases next year but issued this interim report to flag up operational concerns.
It said that around 349,000 of the 568,000 cases submitted to the OIC up to 30 June 2023 were unresolved, up from 212,000 a year earlier.
The most recent data showed it took an average of 251 days for a claim to reach settlement, a figure that continues to rise; represented claims took an average of 277 days, compared to 121 days for unrepresented claims.
A further 72,141 claims have exited the portal for a reason other than settlement, of which 8,023 have gone to court.
The MoJ told the committee: “The average settlement time remains variable because claims with longer prognoses have started to settle. No claim on OIC is older than May 2021; the average time started low as short prognosis claims quickly settled and will increase as longer prognoses push up the average.
“We don’t expect timeliness data to settle until OIC has been live for three years, the limitation period for these claims. Only then can we have a true picture of whether timeliness has improved.”
But the committee said it was concerned by the statistics, given that one of the objectives of the OIC portal was to simplify and speed up the process.
Chair Sir Bob Neill said: “Whilst we acknowledge that the nature of the claims process is such that there will always be a stock of cases in the portal at different stages in the claims lifecycle, and that some will take longer to reach a resolution than others, we recommend the MoJ investigates further the reasons for the growing number of unresolved cases and the deterioration in the timeliness of reaching settlement, and publishes its findings by the end of the year.
“It should also include an analysis of timeliness in comparison to how equivalent cases previously progressed in the MoJ’s Claims Portal and of the apparent disparity in settlement times between represented and unrepresented claims.”
The committee was concerned too about the continuing technical problems faced by professional users and lack of connection with other systems.
“We appreciate that it takes time for new systems to ‘bed in’… However, it is vital that any technological problems which professional users of the OIC face that affect efficiency, accuracy or timeliness are resolved as a matter of urgency.”
The committee said the MoJ’s response to its report should set out “what steps it is taking in conjunction with the MIB to address these concerns, and when it expects them to be resolved”.
From the start, unrepresented litigants have only made up 10% of OIC users, with the committee told the real figure was more like 3% when claimants assisted by the at-fault insurer, and therefore not truly litigants in person, were excluded.
Insurer Allianz was among those to highlight the lack of public awareness of the OIC and it expressed concern about fake websites which appeared in online searches for the portal. “Allianz said such websites could lead claimants to unnecessarily access misleading services and that this might erode trust in the online portal itself.”
The MPs concluded: “Whilst we accept that the majority of OIC users will continue to use legal representation, it is not clear to what extent a lack of awareness of the portal is responsible for the low number of unrepresented claims.
“Accordingly, we recommend that the MoJ and MIB conduct research to better understand this, and whether steps to improve awareness of the OIC portal and user-confidence in the system would encourage more litigants in person.”
With motor insurance premiums continuing to rise, despite the promise that the whiplash reforms would reduce them, the committee said it was “difficult to determine” the extent to which unrelated upward pressures on premiums, such as inflation, have been offset by savings from the reforms.
Zurich Insurance said premiums were not as high as they would have been without the reforms, while Allianz cautioned that the 41% reduction in personal injury claims recorded by the Compensation Recovery Unit was mainly due to Covid and subsequent changed driving behaviours.
“Overall, our own data for personal lines demonstrates that the reforms have resulted in a 12.6% reduction in the number of whiplash claims,” it said.
The Civil Liability Act 2018 requires HM Treasury to lay a report in Parliament during the 2024–25 financial year, assessing the effects of the Act on policyholders.
The committee said this should be a transparent review, including publishing insurers’ submissions, while there should be a follow-up assessment a year later as the reforms continue to bed in.