Time flies when you’re having fun… and when you’re monitoring the performance of the OIC Portal, which was launched a year ago on 31 May 2021. Below we consider how it’s going, what hurdles the portal has faced, what has been unexpected and what is still yet to come.
While some teething issues are to be expected with any new technology, we have heard much rumour that technical issues persist even now, 12-months into the OIC Portal’s operation, with claimant lawyers struggling to upload medical reports and documents. Compensators are saying that some medical reports from the represented market are indeed making their way onto the portal, however volumes are much lower overall than expected. Not much has been said publicly by claimant law firms and their representative bodies until very recently, with Donna Scully from Carpenters Solicitors and Sue Brown, Chair of MASS, verifying these rumours at the ABI whiplash conference and PI Legal Futures conference respectively on the 24 and 25 May. Reports that upload issues are a particular problem for lawyers using certain IT systems and for those with volumes of reports to upload, in addition to suggestions that the OIC Portal does not support the progression of claims involving liability disputes, or where second medical reports are required were voided.
While some larger claimant organisations have been vocal recently on technical issues, the full extent of the issue, however, appears to be unknown, with data not yet available as to how many parties are affected and how many claims are potentially impacted. What is becoming more apparent is that a backlog of claims (or certainly a backlog of medical reports) is developing, and this is clearly hampering some settlements and distorting the data when it comes to claims volumes.
The very low volume of litigated disputes resulting from the OIC Portal is not reflective of the repudiation level within the portal. The MIB says that efforts are underway to help rectify all outstanding technical issues, but they can only move at the pace of the majority and not just a handful of larger law firms who are ready to implement wider IT upgrades. While the IT issues are certainly not insignificant, they do not appear to be the whole story for an area of the industry where you would expect the close relationships between claimant law firms and compensators to lead to requests for manual work-arounds that could offer temporary solutions.
With CMCs representing only 0.3% of total claimants in the latest figures released this is an outcome of the introduction of the portal which has been of great surprise to many. With CMC’s requiring additional permissions from the FCA to act for claimants in the personal injury area, there had been an understandable and anticipated lag to CMC activity in the porta;, however the expectation had been that those additional permissions would be sought, and, once granted, a volume of CMCs would start to operate in the OIC Portal, after they had integrated their own case management technology.
The FCA inform us that there are just four outstanding applications from CMCs requesting additional permissions to act for claimants in personal injury claims, and yet no formal word of other CMCs intending to enter the OIC Portal market.
To see such little CMC activity 12-months in to the OIC Portal being operational might be a result of the previous FCA backlog in dealing with permissions applications or it might be down to the IT system development costs, a consideration by CMCs that it is not worth their while from a profit point, or perhaps they are just waiting for all the teething problems and satellite litigation to be seen out before they make their decisions on whether or not to join the party!
In the latest OIC Portal data release, Mixed and Non-Tariff injuries accounted for 64.1% and 3.4% of claims respectively. Whilst minimal, this is an increase from the figures seen in the first data publication of 61.1% and 1.6%.
The data provided is not split between injury types; however, from Keoghs own data and additional injury trends we are seeing, we anticipate that these claims will be largely made up of injuries to the chest/torso followed by injuries to the extremities (including wrists, hands and ankles).
Should these trends and indeed a gradual increase in volume of Mixed and Non-Tariff injuries continue, we could begin to find a significant increase to damages paid for OIC Portal claims in the future. For additional insight see Mark Hall’s blog on inflation and the OIC Portal here.
Another consequence of the overall lower volume claims coming through the portal, and a lack of completed medical evidence, is the failure to progress any Minor Injuries test cases. With the actual value of Minor Injuries unknown it is impossible to know what eventual savings may be achieved by these reforms. With reporting requirements under the CLA regulations relating to a period of 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2023 and it being highly unlikely that we will know the position on Minor Injuries damages by that date, insurers will need to report on the cost saving from the CLA reforms without knowing exactly what they are.
This makes the narrative surrounding the costs reporting all the more important, with explaining the complicated position surrounding the data being no mean feat.
There is a statutory requirement to review the tariff no later than three years after implementation of the reforms, however, the MoJ have previously committed in Parliament to review the data one year post implementation to consider whether it is feasible to review the tariff any earlier, a point which they highlighted during the recent conferences. Will inflation play a role in the MoJ’s consideration and can we expect to see a tariff review earlier than the three year long-stop period? With there being such a future unknown on where inflation will settle, perhaps they will choose to wait to see where it does settle…
With low overall claims figures and a slow take-up seen within the portal fraud figures also remain down – ‘success’ I hear you shout! However, with the MoJ maintaining since the early development of the OIC Portal that fraud is to remain the problem of the compensator (despite it being one of the original aims of Government that the reforms reduce fraud), without the right tools being provided those compensators will struggle to identify fraud if (when?) it does emerge.
Compensators have long asked for IP addresses for claimants and enhanced ID verification processes, neither of which have been developed. With no acceptance of the need for change to the system, let’s hope the MoJ isn’t left with future regret.
With low overall volumes, a minority of claims with medical reports, barely any CMC activity and the damages position for minor injuries still outstanding it seems far too early to make any sort of assessment as to whether the OIC Portal has been a success or not. The market will be watching the data closely, and crossing fingers the portal continues to go mostly unnoticed by fraudsters. Key areas to watch going forward are CMC activity, system updates/upgrades by the MIB and minor injuries test cases.
We will continue to bring you the latest updates on OIC developments.
Head of Market Affairs
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