The Civil Liability Act 2018 contained what has become known as the whiplash reforms, a package of measures introduced with the intention of reducing what was perceived as a "the disproportionately high number and cost of whiplash claims in England and Wales." These measures included the creation of 'Official Injury Claim' ("OIC"), a free and independent online portal service ("the portal") for managing low value road traffic accident claims which was designed to support individuals to bring claims for compensation for injuries suffered in road traffic accidents, without needing legal assistance.
In February 2023 an inquiry by the House of Commons Justice Committee ("the Committee") was launched to consider the effect of the reforms on the number of minor personal injury claims being brought, how the OIC portal was operating and whether it was ensuring access to justice.
The inquiry closed to submissions on the 17th March 2023 and an interim report ("the report") has been published today (20th September 2023) by the Committee. The full report, in which DAC Beachcroft's response is mentioned on 6 occasions, can be accessed here.
The Committee states that its inquiry is currently significantly impacted by the case of Hassam v Rabot before the Supreme Court, the hearing of which is likely to take place in February 2024. The treatment of mixed injury claims is identified as central to the assessment of the overall implementation of the reforms and noting that some of the witnesses that would have been called by it to give evidence are parties to that case the Committee has decided to pause its inquiry until the case has been determined.
However, in the interim, the Committee raised some concerns with the operation of the portal that had been raised in written evidence provided to the inquiry.
The report focusses on three main issues:
- The percentage of users of the portal (currently around 90%) who are represented, the intention having been for the portal to enable claimants to represent themselves.
- Difficulties encountered by professional users in integrating their systems with the portal.
- The growing number of outstanding cases, currently 348,000 and the average time taken to conclude cases (251 days).
The report calls on the MOJ and the Motor Insurers' Bureau ("MIB"), as operator of the portal to undertake research to better understand the issues concerning representation and how they can be addressed. The MOJ is also called on to identify steps being taken to identify the question of systems integration.
In addition, the report acknowledges that determining whether the reduction in motor insurance premiums estimated to flow from the reforms has been achieved has been impacted by upward costs pressures, such as the pandemic and the increase in the cost of living. It therefore recommends that when carrying out its statutory assessment on the effects on policyholders of the reforms, the Government be as transparent as possible and that the submissions made in that process by insurers be published.
The Committee states that it intends to return to these and other aspects of the whiplash reforms next year after the Supreme Court gives its decision in Hassam v Rabot.
It is now for the MOJ to respond to the matters raised in the report which have been referred to it and we will provide a further update when details are available.