Cracking down on whiplash and more

Summarising recent changes to the handling of low value injury claims, David Lamb, claims handler at County, takes clients through the new Official Injury Claim Portal and what it means for claims going forward

 

I attended a very good and interesting webinar hosted by one of our insurer panel, Equity Red Star (ERS), regarding changes coming into effect from 31st May 2021.

A new claims ‘portal’ has been set up, specifically designed for low value injury claims (such as minor whiplash which does not have long term effects). It is for injury claims up to £5,000 with a total claim limit (which includes vehicle damage) of £10,000. Called the Official Injury Claim Portal (OIC), information about it can be found on the following link: https://www.officialinjuryclaim.org.uk/about/ .

The portal is designed so that individuals can submit their own claim without legal assistance. However, as pointed out in the webinar, it is certainly not an easy or straightforward process. If someone has legal expenses cover and are looking to claim for whiplash then we would always direct them to their legal expenses provider.

If for any reason you didn’t have legal expenses cover, the OIC portal exists to help fill a gap. Even when the injury is minor and without ongoing conditions as a firm we would still say that it is advisable to seek legal advice. We are not lawyers and although we might guess at the value of an injury claim, we have no way of assessing it during a Notification of Loss or even after medical reports.

The aim of the new portal is to reduce costs, reduce fraud and reduce the influence of ‘no win no fee’ lawyers. The government say it should, as a result, reduce premiums and that they are going to keep a close eye on insurers to make sure it does. It is meant to be the first phase of a two stage reform but there is no sign that the second phase is going to be brought in, in the short to medium term future.

The courts have huge backlogs so if a case does go to court (the hope is that not many will) then it will be a long time before it is heard.

The main differences from the other routes to making an injury claim from the point of view of the defendant are:

  • The directing of the claim. The claim will be directed to the insurer of the vehicle on the MID at the time of the accident. That insurer has to deal with the claim, unless another insurer agrees that they insured the vehicle at the time of the accident and takes over the claim.
  • The insurer has only 30 days to make investigations and determine liability and respond to the claimant. If liability is admitted there is no going back – the decision is final and cannot be contested later. The other point about the 30 days is that it cannot be extended even if the claim is originally handled by one insurer and then transferred to another.

This puts a huge emphasis on the first 30 days, which makes it vital that claims are reported early to allow time for investigation, particularly if the claim is contested. This is particularly important for a motor trader driving a customer’s car because the original claim will be directed to the owner’s insurer. If the motor trader does not report the claim, it will only be when the owner’s insurers decide to redirect to the motor trader, that the motor trader’s insurers get to hear of the incident. That insurer will then only have the balance of time left of the 30 days to investigate which could mean a week or less.

The key message for all our motor clients is:

  • It really matters that vehicles are correctly shown on the MID – check registrations with your regular contact and within your fleet records
  • Motor claims must be reported without delay
  • Motor trade road risks claims are likely to be initially directed to the owner of the vehicle (not necessarily the motor trader). This has possible consequences for both the owner and the motor trader. It is vital that motor trade clients are aware of the changes and report claims immediately.