The publication of the Fenn report into personal injury claims made through the government’s RTA portal has does nothing to change the mind of the Coalition government about its intentions over expanding it and raising the small claims limits for personal injury cases. Professor Fenn’s report has highlighted the need for caution over these changes and concludes that it was not yet time to go ahead with the expansion.
The government has decided that it wishes to expand the RTA portal limit to £25,000 from next April – the same time as the LAPSO legislation comes into force. The intention is also to include employers’ and public liability claims within the portal parameters. At the same time, although perhaps a little more equivocal, it has reiterated its intention to raise the small claims limit from £1000 to £5000.
As if in chime with the Fenn report, the company that has the contract for administering the electronic side of the RTA portal has said that it thought it would be impossible to be set up to deal with all the extra claims in time for the deadline next year.
There has been some suspicion in p.i. quarters that the government has been deliberately sitting on the Fenn report and delaying its release as the results tend to contradict the government’s intentions. The chief executive of APIL (the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers), Deborah Evans, said that she thought it was “appalling” that the report had been delayed as it contained useful information which should have been used to influence the government’s decision.
The report, she said showed that the amount of damages awarded via the portal were significantly less than previously obtained. She said that this was disappointing as the opening of the portal was in no way designed to reduce the amount of damages below what had been awarded up to now.
The APIL CEO also pointed out that most of the claims going through the RTA portal up to now were less than £3,500. It seemed nonsensical, she said, for the government to push so determinedly for a rise in the claims values at this stage.
The value of the portal to date is somewhat controversial. One spokesman from a prominent personal injury firm said that the balance sheet so far did not demonstrate very convincingly the advantages of using what was supposed to be a “streamlined” process. He said that half of the claims were dropped before they had a chance to be heard, while the cost of the claims process had not been significantly reduced despite the reduction in damages awarded. The time for the claims process to complete was also no shorter than before the portal was in use.
However, a spokesman from the Motor Accident Solicitors Society said that the portal process was “sound” but the portal process needed thorough costing and review while still in operation before any attempt to expand the scheme further.