Just-ice a Click Away: New small claims website for personal injury claims launches

February 13, 2020

3 min read

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What's going on here?

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) has set up a new website called Official Injury Claim; an online portal for low-value (i.e. under £5,000) road traffic accident (RTA) personal injury claims. The service is set to start in early April 2020.

What does this mean?

Official Injury Claim says this service “enables people who have suffered injuries in a road traffic accident to understand how to make a claim, provide the required information, manage their claim and receive settlement offers”. 

The main aim of the portal seems to be an increase in access to justice, with claimants being guided through every process of their claim. As a result of this, claimants won’t need to pay for legal representation or advice when using the new system. 

Registration for the site has started so that organisations can start familiarising themselves with the portal and attempt to implement it smoothly.

What's the big picture effect?

The introduction of this new portal will have a significant, and welcome, beneficial impact on access to justice. With courts becoming increasingly burdened by the number of claims brought, the small claims portal should serve to lighten that load whilst ensuring justice is done. The small claims court alone is currently overrun with claims which it does not necessarily have the facilities to process, let alone quickly. Further, personal injury claims are one of the most common types of claims. So, the move online would definitely free up court resources, and allow those resources to go towards high-value complex cases.

Further, those claimants who cannot afford court fees and representation costs can bring their case to the online portal. They are guided through the process and do not have to pay fees to receive legal help. It can also be beneficial for those claimants who do not wish to appear in court, due to the high amount of stress involved in legal proceedings and the overall intimidating nature to those who are unfamiliar with the court system. In this way, the portal is enabling access to justice, ensuring that economic or personal factors do not hinder those with legitimate claims. 

However, the long-lasting effects of the portal are unclear, as the site is yet to launch officially. As of now, the MIB completed the first phase of testing in November 2019 and is undergoing the second phase now, testing the website amongst consumers both times. Although testing may have been successful, it will be interesting to see how user-friendly the website is, and whether those with limited computer literacy will still be able to process claims. It is also not yet known whether the portal will aid claimants in recognising whether they are entitled to any “special damages” (expenses which have occurred due to the damage, e.g. medical bills) on top of the general damages they will claim. 

The portal may also not catch important or unique cases which may be able to set a legal precedent, nor does it outline what might happen in terms of appeals or rejection of settlements. As of present, ADR (alternative dispute resolution, e.g. arbitration or mediation) is only available to unrepresented clients, disadvantaging those with representation. ADR can be a good alternative to court by handling claims more amicably and being more cost-effective for the parties. Therefore, represented claimants using the portal may lose out by not being able to use ADR methods to settle their disputes.

Of course, this is not the first step in the digitisation of the court process. The HM Courts & Tribunal Service launched Money Claim Online (MCOL) as an easy and convenient way to make and respond to claims, facilitating access to justice and freeing up the courts. Given the accessibility of the portal, in terms of aiding those without representation, it is highly likely that the portal will be successful. Although the online nature of the portal may disadvantage those who do not have internet access or literacy, solicitors and organisations may begin advertising services to aid those with their claims.

If you want to take a look at the new portal and find out more ahead of their April launch, click here to go to their official site: https://www.officialinjuryclaim.org.uk/.

Report written by Harina Chandhok

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