The creators of the whiplash portal are actively exploring why so few litigants in person appear to be using the service.
Official Injury Claim went live last May having been designed for use by both represented claimants and those without a lawyer. But early indications are that unrepresented people are unlikely to use the portal, with 90% of claims coming from people who instructed a solicitor.
Minutes from last month’s OIC advisory group meeting, chaired by the Ministry of Justice and attended by solicitor, insurer and medical agency representatives, were published on Friday and revealed that research has been commissioned into unrepresented claimants exiting the service.
Stakeholders also want to establish whether unrepresented claimants may be receiving additional advice ‘in the background’ and if this might be having an impact on settlement figures.
The group remarked on the continued absence of claims management companies in the process (in the first quarter of the OIC operating, just 101 claims out of 41,000 were made through CMCs).
One area being researched is unrepresented claimants’ level of awareness of the service and their journey through the process. The assumption was that individuals with potential whiplash claims would be directed to the portal by their insurer, but the numbers would suggest that many are not taking this advice – or alternatively that many are being put off running their own claim and seeking out solicitors instead. The Civil Liability Act prevents the recovery of legal costs for any claim valued less than £5,000, so any successful claimant using a solicitor would have those costs deducted from damages.
The minutes record that the advisory group’s discussion ‘included the importance of capturing how the claimant found their way to the service, to enable a better understanding of its visibility and whether/how this can be improved’.
Although designed with both unrepresented and represented claimants in mind, the clear intention of the portal was to encourage more people to handle their own claims and reduce costs.
The government says ‘substantial work’ was undertaken to ensure that the service was fair, accessible and efficient for all users, and has been ‘carefully designed with the claimant firmly at its heart’. The service includes a dedicated phone support centre who do not wish to handle their case online.