Qamar Anwar Comments on Latest OIC Data

The predictable traffic chaos over the bank holiday weekend is the clearest sign yet that our roads have returned to pre-pandemic normal.

Which makes it all the more baffling that the number of road traffic accidents has dropped so dramatically, according to recently released figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The Official Injury Claim portal, launched on May 31st last year to simplify the claims process so victims of lower value collisions did not need a lawyer, has registered just shy of 210,000 cases so far, compared to the average 650,000 recorded annually prior.

Has it blocked bogus claims and streamlined access to justice for genuine claimants? After 10 months of bugs and bluster from MoJ officials and after reading the latest revealing tranche of data, I’m inclined to say no.

The headline stats are hard to ignore. While this quarter recorded the highest number of claims so far, an overwhelming majority of 91% of people - consistent with figures from the first six months – still instructed a lawyer to help them.

Just a third of claims lodged since the launch have been just for whiplash or whiplash with minor psychological injury, meaning only they can be dealt with, and damages calculated using the fixed tariff.

Furthermore, as many as one in four seek an uplift in damages – claiming exceptional injury, circumstances or both – suggesting they may not understand how it’s worked out.

Perhaps the most disheartening statistic of all for potential claimants is that just 8% of cases have settled so far, with the average time that took creeping up from 85 to 139 days.

Many that involve both tariff and non-tariff injuries, are also of course on hold until test cases are heard to decide how they should be valued.

Until earlier this year, those embarking on the process of making a claim found themselves having to wade through a “user-friendly” guide of 60-plus pages.

A new and improved 11-page guide was eventually unveiled, although curiously without the all-important tariff information.

The portal support centre, which dispenses practical advice on how to navigate the system, received more than double the number of enquiries this quarter compared to the last, suggesting that there are still, more than nine months in, what the MoJ optimistically describes as teething problems.

Critics have questioned the poor marketing of the portal to potential claimants, with those in charge seemingly relying on insurers to signpost them rather than an effective advertising campaign.

But the real issue seems to be a system unfit for purpose which is not just stopping potential fraud but also putting off genuine claimants. Indeed, 30% of those who exited the portal before their claim was finalised cited ‘complexity’ as the reason.

Next month marks the first full year of the portal, an ideal time for the MoJ to pull its head out the sand and commit to a full, open and honest review so that finally, the much-vaunted portal can deliver on its promise.

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