The Official Injury Claims Portal was launched in May 2021, with new guidelines regarding compensation for Road Traffic Accident Compensation Claims.
The new fixed tariffs outline compensation amounts for whiplash and soft-tissue injuries to road users involved in non-fault accidents, where symptoms last for a maximum of 24 months. Claims for more severe injuries are, of course, still possible, but they are not limited by the new guidelines and need not be processed via the OIC portal.
The OIC portal was created to support individuals to make their own personal injury claims following a road traffic accident. The aim of the OIC has been stated to provide an easier access to the claims process for unrepresented claimants, known as Litigants In Person.
Varying degrees of criticism have been levied against the OIC since its launch, and, more than a year from its launch, the portal is attracting widespread criticism from the public and from the legal profession. The portal is primarily designed to enable the public to progress ‘whiplash-injury-only’ claims, but therein lies its major flaw.
Since its launch, it has become apparent that particular issues with the portal’s functionality or nuances surrounding the types of injury sustained by claimants have made the online process difficult, problematic and confusing.
“Mixed Injuries” claims are also possible through OIC, but the new rules also do not set out clear guidelines for them. These claims make up 64% of all OIC claims, but neither claimants nor compensators have a clear set of compensation guidelines regarding these cases, leading to a good deal of uncertainty regarding the fairness of the settlement amounts..
At SDS Solicitors, we are helping more and more clients who have attempted to process their own claims through the OIC portal, but have become confused and frustrated with the online process
What does the OIC data suggest?
The OIC has published its data for Q1 and Q2, covering the period between its launch and the end of 2021.
The total volume of Road Traffic Accident injury claims has decreased drastically, from an average of 650,000 claims per year to less than 210,000 in the first year of operation of OIC.
There is a strong suggestion of the aim of the Portal having been failed, as unrepresented claimants make up around 9% of all claims for the year. Initial projections suggested an expectation of this number being 3 times bigger.
The great discrepancy between the expected figure and the actual number of Litigants In Person could indicate a number of scenarios.
One could make the argument that the Portal is working as expected, reducing the number of fraudulent or illegitimate claims. This was one of the objectives of the OIC, and having a bigger portion of the claims being handled by a legal professional could suggest a higher level of legitimacy of these claims.
On the other hand, this could mean that claimants do have legitimate claims, but are avoiding using the Portal.
What do legal professionals think of the OIC?
Sue Brown, Chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS), has explained that the low volume of LIP claims and RTA claims in general cannot be “realistically dismissed as being down to the impact of COVID-19 [...] but is more likely directly associated with the issues around OIC and the new claims process”. The link is strengthened by the return to pre-COVID traffic volumes, which should bring about a similar figure in total RTA claims.
Brown goes on to indicate a number of root issues which may result in lower volumes of claims. These include low awareness of OIC and the new claims process, claimants being reluctant to chase compensation without legal representation, and, most importantly, the structural and technological IT issues related to the Portal.
“We were promised a seamless and efficient system, but have so far only seen an incomplete and largely untested system.” said Brown, “The delays being caused to injured accident victims receiving fair compensation is having a serious impact on access to justice.”
The frustration within the legal world is widespread, as there is no streamlined process for law firms - who handle the overwhelming majority of claims submitted through OIC - to enter claims into the system, if not by individually, manually filing claims.
The criticism has been extended to the Ministry of Justice, as they have released a 64-page guide alongside the new Official Injury Claims Portal to aid claimants in the navigation of the system. Sceptics have highlighted the hypocrisy of the move, as it seems to make the Portal even less accessible to non-legal professionals.
The proposed solutions include promoting the OIC to improve awareness by possible claimants, and streamlining the technological and user-friendliness of the Portal. This could improve the usage by LIP claimants, but also make it easier for law firms, which commonly handle these cases, to file larger amounts of compensation claims through the Official Injury Claims Portal.
What does this mean for claimants?
Concerns that independent claimants are left confused by the process and unsure of what represents a fair settlement amount are common in the legal landscape.
Many are left to claim against insurance companies, and vulnerable to pressure from them to settle their compensation claim for as small amounts as possible. The data also suggests that many claimants may be hesitant to even file a claim at all. Many legitimate victims of RTA injuries may be missing out on the compensation they deserve.
The OIC has not made Personal and RTA Injury Solicitors obsolete. Most claims are still handled by a legal professional, with as much as 75% of represented claimants being represented by a law firm.
Sheldon Davidson Solicitors have a breadth of experience in handling this type of claims. We can help you file your claim, support you through the process, and, ultimately, achieve the compensation you deserve for your Road Traffic Accident Injury.
If you have been involved in a traffic accident, been the victim of medical negligence or are looking to pursue any other type of personal injury claim, then call Sheldon Davidson Solicitors, Manchester's Personal Injury Specialists.