Managing Director of Claimspace – the digital ADR provider – Stewart McCulloch expressed concern at statistics issued this morning by the Ministry of Justice. The Civil Justice Statistics Quarterly: July to September 2021 confirm that while numbers of claims have not yet returned to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, cases continue to be delayed in getting to trial or hearing.
Reacting to the news Stewart McCulloch said, “In the corresponding pre-pandemic period in 2019, the civil justice system was already in difficulty with fast track and multitrack cases taking an average 70.6 weeks to come to trial – a deteriorating picture that had been trending for some time. Despite new cases having been at significantly lower than normal levels for several months and courts starting to get back to normal, we are seeing an increase in the time taken for cases to be resolved by an average of 11.3 weeks. Insurers are seeing reserves on injury claims piling up. Claimants suffer distressing delays in waiting for cases to be finalised, while lawyers suffer from the inevitable cash flow difficulties that will arise.”
During the early stages of the pandemic and consequential lockdown, courts across the country were closed and significant numbers of cases were adjourned. Within a few weeks the Court Service responded by setting up remote video hearings using widely available software.
Stewart McCulloch went on to say, “Whilst Court Service staff and managers have worked hard and performed absolute miracles during this very unsettling period, the underlying concerns about worsening delays in civil justice remain for all to see. Now is the time for the Ministry of Justice to take positive action to embrace and encourage other ways of resolving disputed claims, rather than waiting at the courts.”
McCulloch points out Claimspace is already resolving disputed personal injury claims and has been throughout 2021 using its online arbitration system. “At Claimspace we resolve claims in less than 10 days and continue to demonstrate that the online system we use is delivering identical results to those of the courts but with significant cost and time savings and without a single complaint about our services or outcomes.”
He went on, “I expect that the responses to the recent and very welcome Ministry of Justice Call for Evidence on ADR will finally convince the government that there are easier and less expensive ways of resolving injury claims fairly without unnecessary complication and expense to the public purse.”
Claimspace is currently working with 5 major motor insurers and 6 key law firms of significant size to provide online ADR services for disputed injury claims. “More will follow,” says McCulloch, “and within the next 18 months, independent digital platforms for resolving these claims will become the norm, leaving the courts to resolve claims where fraud or fundamental dishonesty might be alleged. In the post- PI reform world, the cash and time savings without impacting on justice at all are all too obvious to ignore.”
Commenting on the publication of the latest statistics on delays in civil cases coming to court, Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) said: