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We’ve been keenly watching developments in the OIC portal process since its official, very delayed, launch in 2021, and have been greatly concerned by the growing backlog of cases sitting within the portal. The latest report suggests that 349,000 injury claims are currently outstanding, from 614,377 that have been submitted since launch. For those cases that do reach a settlement, the process is now taking around 251 days on average. An unacceptable wait for justice for many people.
In response to the report, Matthew Maxwell Scott, Executive Director of the Association of Consumer Organisations (ACSO), and one of the key figures advocating for consumers regarding civil justice stated:
“This initial report from the committee is welcome and highlights a number of issues affecting consumers, including delays, the small proportion of genuine litigants in person, technical challenges and low public awareness.
“Overall, it has been an inauspicious start to life for the OIC, and while great efforts have been made to make it fit for purpose, the backlogs the committee draws attention to are of considerable concern.
The delays Matthew talks about aren’t just restricted to motor insurance claims, however. We’re seeing significant delays across the civil courts impacting employment tribunals and other civil matters. By the end of December 2022, there were reports of outstanding caseloads of up to 430,000 in the employment tribunal system, and HM Courts and Tribunals Service statistics published earlier this year cited delays of 61,712 cases in the Crown Court, and 347,769 in the Magistrate’s Court.
These delays are partly caused by the pandemic, but also funding cuts, insufficient judges and a lack of administrative and report staff. For people embarking on a legal dispute, the road ahead is long and rocky.
One of the primary aims of the OIC portal was to support individuals who have suffered minor injuries arising from a road traffic accident to claim compensation, without the need for expert legal help. The hope was that this would extend access to justice, but also reduce the cost of personal injury claims and therefore, in theory, the cost of motor insurance.
I wasn’t surprised to read in the Justice Committee report that around 90% of portal users currently have legal representation. Various reports suggest the portal is difficult to integrate into other systems, lacks visibility and suffers from a litany of technological problems making the process challenging at best for litigants.
Injury claims can be incredibly complex, and difficult to navigate at the best of times, pair that with a troublesome system and confusing processes and it’s easy to see why such a large proportion of claimants still defer to legal representation.
Despite all this, motor insurance premiums have continued to rise, though we have seen a slight reduction in the dreaded whiplash claim.
I realise I sound cynical. The OIC portal was introduced to counter the epidemic of whiplash claims and ease the pressure on our whole industry, and I’m all for any initiative that improves the lives of people who have suffered an accident. But looking at the current statistics I can’t help but reflect that the current situation highlights the need for Motor Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI). Having an LEI policy in place allows policyholders to quickly engage the support of experts should they need to make a claim, whether through the portal or not.
Our Motor LEI solutions are specially tailored to meet the needs of our clients, and cover the costs of litigation, ensuring policyholders receive compensation and legal support for personal injury claims, uninsured loss recovery, plus much more. The service also includes a 24/7 Motor Legal Helpline for immediate help and assistance.
I’m pleased that the Justice Committee has set out its stall, calling for complete transparency in a review of the OIC Portal in its excellent independent report, but it’s clear that no recommendations will be quickly completed. The industry must work together to ensure customers understand the process, for better or worse, and give them the support they need to make a claim, when they need it.
Richard Finan, Director of Strategic Development, Arc Legal Group
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