Calls have grown for stronger action to rescue the Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal following the release of the latest government statistics. The new Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data, for the months December 2021 – March 2022, show that:
· OIC claims volumes for Jan-March 2022 at 74,202 claims compares with CRU data of 107,463 in the equivalent period during 2021 (at the height of the lockdown). Claims volumes are well down on previous trends.
· Represented claimants continue to dominate the OIC; less than 10% are litigants in person. Ministers simply cannot claim the system meets the objective of being ‘consumer friendly.’
· Very few claims have settled so far, only 8.4% of the total. Settlement volumes are now increasing, as you might expect, but from a very low base. The average time to settle is up from 85 to 139 days
· Fewer than one in three claims is whiplash (i.e. tariff) only, demonstrating that clarity is still urgently needed on how to value mixed claims
· Average monthly number of settlements is down this quarter to 749 from 1156
· 30% of claimants exiting the portal cite ‘complexity’ as the reason. This is no surprise; even minor injury claims are complex.
Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO), said: “An urgent rethink is required in order to prevent complete sclerosis in the civil justice system.
“The OIC was meant to make it easy for injured people to settle their claim, but this self-evidently is not happening. As a result the justice system, already creaking from record court delays, risks falling over a cliff.
“Meanwhile the chapter in the government’s latest data report on ‘system operation’ borders on the Panglossian. It claims the OIC is working ‘as expected’ when professional users report huge issues and unrepresented claimants are having to turn to the support centre in ever-increasing numbers.”
He added: “We have been calling for some months for the MoJ to establish a cross-sector change control committee, similar to that set up for the previous claims portal, with the power to make the recommendations necessary to get the OIC to the point where it is fit for purpose.”
Maxwell Scott explained: “The change control committee should be made up of technical experts from all sides who deal with the day-to-day detail of claims processes. Their brief would be to address practical problems quickly and openly, rather than having to rely on the current quarterly feedback loops.
“The existing OIC Advisory Committee is largely made up of policy people from trade associations with no ‘on-the-ground’ capability. That might be suitable once the OIC works, but we are nowhere near that stage. It all shows the danger of foisting an untried and untested system on the public with no meaningful oversight or review mechanism.”
ACSO member companies have endorsed the call for a new approach. Mark Savill, managing director of Lyons Davidson, said: “As the data continue to show, current oversight of the portal is not working. The next set of data will take us to an entire year since launch, but I have no confidence that anyone will be able honestly to claim it is near to being fully operational.
He added: “Despite repeated assurances that the developed platform is stable we continue to receive system and data dictionary changes with little notice as the MIB grapples with issues that remain.”
Matt Jarvis, Chief Commercial and Insurance Services Officer at Slater and Gordon, said: “The claims sector has significantly consolidated since the commencement of the OIC portal and user engagement at the right level is key to ensure we have a sustainable platform and process which works effectively.
“The lack of engagement with key stakeholders on the claimant side has been disappointing. The MOJ must now move to a model which includes greater collaboration with key stakeholders.
“Equally, the level of data being released is also unsatisfactory given the amount of data stored in the OIC system. Quarter releases are insufficient and not in keeping with the ideology of the process; we should have access to all data in real time. Given we are nearly 12 months on since the launch of the portal, not to have this is simply unacceptable.”
Maxwell Scott said: “While we accept the pressures the MoJ is under, it cannot continue the current bunker mentality. We know that experts from across the insurance and legal services industry will willingly give their time to make the government’s policy work. To refuse this offer in the face of evident dysfunction seems churlish.”
He added that with the motor claims sector dealing with soaring claims costs, at least one insurer CEO (Geoff Carter at Sabre) has warned that premiums will have to rise as a result.
“The problems with the OIC are adding to the cost of motor claims; the opposite of what ministers intended. The promised £35 reduction in car insurance for the public as a result of the reforms is now further away than ever.”
Maxwell Scott also noted that only 0.2% of claimants were represented by CMCs, which “drives a coach and horses through the assertion by some in the industry that CMCs would become significant players in minor injury claims, leading to more fraud risk.”
He concluded: “This is not a situation that can continue indefinitely. In contrast with the ‘nothing to see here, everything is fine’ conclusion in the OIC report, there is in fact strong support from our members for a new, focused and collaborative approach to resolving the issues with the OIC. We urge ministers to act now, set up a change control group, and save a bad situation from becoming much worse.”