Industry Expert View: Martin Saunders

Martin Saunders is head of service for Official Injury Claim (OIC). As the portal celebrates its second anniversary, he reflects on the journey so far and the road ahead for both claimants and law firms.

The portal was never going to be a system that was popular with lawyers. Let’s get that out the way first. At its core, the policy it supports was to bear down on costs and volume, and it has meant many law firms transacting these types of claims had to significantly change their ways of working or, in some cases, make decisions to stop taking on claims altogether.

It’s also important to stress from the outset that I speak as the service provider. I did not draw up the policy, nor do I have the power to change it. Some of the detail of the legislation, such as the announcement that there were going to be two tariffs, was delivered late in the process and was as much a surprise to us as everyone else. The system has to be aligned with the rules. It is. I do consider that the OIC portal has been a success.

I have worked in the general insurance industry for a long time now and my background is very much in reform. I was head of claims at the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau and sat on the Civil Justice Council as a representative of the insurance industry, so it’s an area I know very well.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) first asked the MIB to come on board in 2017 and work started in 2019, which was initially setting up quite a substantial project team and identifying the suppliers we were looking to engage.

We have a dedicated team of 27, split between the portal support centre and the various structures that sit around it like IT, and from the day of its launch it has been available 24/7.

In that time, it has been used by a huge amount of claimants – over 500,000 at the last count – whether represented by a lawyer or not. It's often cited that only around one in 10 claimants who use the portal are unrepresented, but that’s still almost 50,000, plus I don’t believe the MoJ’s policy was ever for it to be used exclusively by claimants acting alone.

Just under 120,000 claims have been successfully settled. Insurers have paid £130 million to do that.

There are still things to work on and we are committed to resolving them. The average settlement times, for example, are longer than we would like them to be and, unfortunately, I think that will get worse before it gets better. We think the main reason for this is medical reports not being uploaded to the system in the volumes expected –– but we are looking at the data that sits behind it to better understand.

Unrepresented claimants tend to transact through the portal in around half the time it takes those who are represented, but there are some professional organisations out there who are transacting just as quickly, so we know it is possible.

We have always tried our best to be transparent. The publication of data is an example, which is now released monthly and to a breadth and depth that I don’t think the market was expecting. We speak regularly with claimant representatives and have a series of roundtables planned to coincide with the anniversary.

There are over 400 different organisations that transact in the portal and it’s not possible for us to have regular communication with everyone, but we invite them to contact us if they have a particular issue they wish to discuss. We continue to engage with the MoJ’s OIC advisory group, and the MoJ also gathers the trade bodies together on a quarterly basis to seek their views on how they think things are going.

Unrepresented claimants are asked to rate the service via SMS and a questionnaire. In February, and in response to feedback, we also launched our ‘Help Hub’ on the OIC’s website, which is a whole suite of self-service ‘how to’ publications to aid both claimants and legal professionals through the process.

The portal is a unique project which has been a learning curve for us all. I can’t promise that there won’t be any more glitches, which are common in any system of this size and scale, but in terms of building a working portal I think we are 99% there. There may be some small changes, for example, if the law changes, and things like password resets will continue, but there are currently no substantive new features left to build.


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