Unrepresented personal injury (PI) claimants under the new whiplash regime will have paid-for access to an “independent view” of their claim, the Ministry of Justice has revealed.
Meanwhile, PEGA, an American company that produces software for customer engagement and digital process automation, has begun building the new portal for unrepresented claimants at the heart of the reforms.
The revelations came in a letter from Lord Keen, the MoJ’s spokesman in the House of Lords, to justice committee chair Bob Neill MP.
Lord Keen stressed that the “key design principle” was that claimants were at the heart of the process, meaning the portal has to be “as simple and efficient as possible for unrepresented claimants”.
He continued: “We have also initiated work with a group of experienced alternative dispute resolution providers to develop a new bespoke system of alternative dispute resolution to support unrepresented claimants using the new IT portal.
“The IT system will provide access to a low-cost paper-based system, paid for by the compensator, which will enable unrepresented claimants to seek an independent view from a qualified expert on key elements of their claim.”
There is no detail on who will provide the view and how much they will be paid.
Lord Keen said the MoJ was working with MedCo to develop a process for unrepresented claimants to obtain medical reports within the new system.
The Motor Insurers Bureau is charged by the MoJ with delivering the portal and after a tender has appointed PEGA to build and host the new IT system.
Lord Keen said PEGA has “extensive” government project experience having developed projects for both the US government and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK.
MIB has also engaged Big Four accountants Deloitte to provide “overarching programme assurance” on the delivery of the IT build.
The MoJ is working with the Civil Procedure Rule Committee as well to develop a new pre-action protocol for road traffic accident-related personal injury claims in the small claims track, and identify the necessary amendments to the CPR and practice directions.
Meanwhile, Hudgell Solicitors – the law firm that first set up an arm dedicated to acquiring personal injury firms’ work in progress, called webuyanyfiles.com – has declared that it is actively seeking further acquisition opportunities in the run-up to April 2020.
Founder Neil Hudgell said: “Many firms in the same areas of work as us will be finding themselves running increasingly difficult caseloads, perhaps struggling with cash flow and lending, and considering exiting the market, of that there is no doubt,”
“We’ve always been open to opportunity and ready to talk to people over the past few years, but have been well aware that many have battled on despite facing ever more hurdles.
“As a firm, we sense the beginning of another significant market exodus over the coming 12 to 24 months and we have seen the beginnings of that already, having had negotiations with a number of firms over potential deals in recent months.”
Since launching the acquisition vehicle in 2011, Mr Hudgell has done nearly 40 deals for practices of varying size, taking on thousands of clients in deals worth more than £8m in upfront and deferred payments.
The solicitor predicted that while many would view the next 12 months as a year of uncertainty, “it is perhaps another year of opportunity for us”.
He added: “For retiring partners or sole practitioners with diminishing casebooks and firms which have retained claims departments which are not the business model going forward, we are far from the wolves at the door.
“We feel we will be very much a welcome visitor who can assist those looking to retire, firms seeking to reduce overheads and liabilities or to free up capital to invest in other areas of the business.”