If you are injured in a road traffic accident, and this could be as a car driver, a passenger, a cyclist, or pedestrian, if your injuries are thought to be worth less than £10,000 then since April 2010, your claim would have been processed through the personal injury portal.
This is an electronic way of dealing with low value road traffic claims, and was introduced after significant pressure was borne down on the Government by the Insurance industry, who wanted to streamline and speed up the process of RTA claims. The aim of course, was to cut the costs the Insurers are required to pay as a result of these claims, both in damages and costs, and the very positive by-product of this change was that claims are most certainly dealt with faster, which is great for the injured person.
Despite this electronic system still being very much in it’s infancy, it should be remembered that it’s been in place for less than 3 years, and continues to experience glitches and hiccups, it was decided by the Government that the portal would be extended two fold, to include dealing with people injured in road traffic accidents whose injuries were more serious and would likely attract compensation awards of up to £25,000 and also to include people injured in the workplace, or in a public place, with similar injuries – i.e worth up to £25,000. These changes were described as “vertical” and “horizontal” extensions to the system.
The reasoning behind the decision to extend so massively was very much one sided and extremely rushed, and Solicitors working in this field of the law and indeed other interested organisations expressed cautious reserve about how quickly changes could be made to the electronic portal to accommodate these massive changes, plus whether there would be legislative support in the form of necessary rules and regulations, and whether the same would be ready in time for the ambitious implementation date of April 2013.
It would now appear that there was not enough time for either, and just as we broke for the Christmas break, the government made an announcement that the extension of the portal system would be postponed.
Even now, when the government said it would be in a position to say when the postponed extension will come in to force, the government is unable to deliver the further details it promised would be forthcoming “in the new year”.
So, as a PI practitioner, anxiously waiting for these details to enable me to make the changes necessary within my team to deal with the extension, which are likely to be significant and span many different areas such as IT updates, system changes, training of staff, etc, it’s a difficult and uneasy time. We are as an industry, already facing a raft of sweeping reforms, which will ultimately see the injured person lose out, in that it will be much more difficult for them to secure legal representation when they have been injured, but it also leaves thousands of people employed in this profession, and not just Solicitors, but support staff, admin staff, IT specialists, typists, secretaries to name but a few of the people who I employ, wondering if they are going to have a job for much longer.
No news is not always good news. Don’t keep us hanging on too long.
By Personal Injury Solicitor and Stephensons' Partner, Kate Sweeny