Guest blog post regarding the new RTA portal scheme.
The Government is looking to extend the scope of the Road Traffic Accident (RTA) portal scheme. However, many solicitors feel that these changes are ill advised and that their concerns have not been taken into account. What are these changes and how will they impact on the claims process?
The portal scheme to deal with claims for RTAs was introduced in 2010 and can currently be used for cases up to the value of 10,000. However, the Government’s proposals want to widen the portal’s scope to encompass all claims below 25,000 and to include employer and public liability claims. These changes are due to be enforced in the first half of 2013, but there has been widespread anger amongst lawyers who feel the system isn’t suitable.
Government Adviser against the Idea
The Ministry of Justice commissioned Professor Paul Fenn of Nottingham University to produce a report on the portal and the potential impact of these changes. He advised that any changes should only be implemented following a review of the small claims process which is due in 2013. There should also be a further review of how the portal is working in 12 months, following the changes to referral fees. He argued that since the portal was introduced, compensation awards have actually reduced by 6%. Prof Fenn also disagreed with the use of the portal for liability claims, stating that it would have little effect on the speed these were dealt with, as many of them will be contested which automatically stops the use of the scheme. Despite this report, the Government is still keen to push forward with the changes.
Changes will Impact the Industry
Solicitors who work regularly with the portal feel that the Government should be working on making the current system suitable before they extend the usage. Many of them already face technical issues with the electronic portal and want these difficulties ironed out rather than taking on more work.
Their arguments focus on the need for bespoke versions of the portal for other types of claims, rather than trying to retro fit it to liability work. There are complex differences between car accident claims in Liverpool or elsewhere in the country and those for employers and public liability, which would make the use of the portal void. The way that they find insurance companies and the use of medical reports varies. There are also more contested claims with liability issues, which mean a claim would be thrown out of the portal system anyway. Since the portal was introduced there has been an increase in the speed with which some claims have been settled, but about half don’t go through the portal because of issues with liability.
Solicitors are not disagreeing with the extension of the portal scheme in principle. However, they feel that the impact on the industry has not been researched thoroughly and that their concerns and those of eminent experts have not been taken into account. Only time will tell whether these concerns are justified or whether the claims process will benefit.
Written on behalf of Hughes Carlisle, they are looking to publicise the significance of a variety of legislation changes which can affect the industry.