The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has long had plans to reform the process of making personal injury claims for road traffic accidents (RTA’s) involving whiplash injuries, which are in the main soft tissue injuries that affect the neck, shoulder and back. The purpose of the proposed reforms is to tackle the rising cost of insurance for motorists and reduce it accordingly. The following is a summary of the position and the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) involvement so far.
Current Claims and MOJ Reforms
When someone makes a personal injury claim it will fall into one of three tracks if it is issued at Court, dependent on its value. At the present time for RTA claims the Small Claims Track is for claims that are likely to have a value of no more than £1,000 for the personal injury element of the claim. The Fast – Track is for claims where the injury value is in excess of £1,000 and the total value of all damages claimed does not exceed £25,000. Multi – Track is for claims above £25,000 in value. One of the key features of the MOJ reforms is to raise the Small Claims Track limit for personal injury RTA claims to £5,000.
If the Small Claims Track limit is raised it will mark an important change and will have a significant effect for solicitors. If someone has a legal representative such as a solicitor or paralegal run a personal injury claim for them which is worth less than £5,000, under the proposed changes the legal representative will not be able to claim the costs for their work from the compensating insurer. This in turn will affect the way that solicitors will do business in the personal injury sector for claims of this type.
The Civil Liability Act 2018
The Civil Liability Act 2018 has been introduced as part of these measures and brings changes to the way the personal injury compensation procedure will work.
As part of the changes the Act establishes the following:
- A definition for whiplash injuries applicable to RTA claims resulting from motor vehicle accidents
- A tariff system of compensation for whiplash injuries up to two years in length
- Banning offers to settle, or settlement of whiplash claims where medical evidence has not yet been obtained such as a medical report to document a person’s injuries
The act also makes provision for a person to make a claim themselves and raises the Small Claims Limit to £2,000 for all other types of personal injury claims.
The Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB)
The Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) are a government agency funded by the insurance industry that allow a person to make a claim where a third party vehicle may be uninsured, untraced or foreign and where recovery from an ordinary third party insurer is therefore not possible.
The MOJ has instructed the MIB to deliver a service to the public that will support the proposed reforms for claims falling into the new Small Claims Track Limit. The MIB are working with the Civil Procedure Rule Committee in order to develop a service to support the proposed changes.
The MIB have outlined on their website that the new service will include the following:
- A portal and claims process (which is separate to the existing portal used for claims of a higher value)
- Integration with other services within the insurance industry such as the Motor Insurance Database (MID) whereby a search can be made on a third party vehicle for use in tracking their insurer
- A contact centre for people who don’t have access or cannot use their digital service
- An application Programming Interface (API) technologies enabling other organisations to join with their new service
- Communications to support an organisation’s preparations for the service
The service is in development and being tested from November 2019 and is currently proposed to start from 6th April 2020. If successful it will mean that all personal injury claims on or after this date, which are under £5,000 will start in the new service.