The Times has reported recently that, according to research by IRN, injured people do not support reducing the involvement of lawyers in the PI claims process. Only 43 per cent of those surveyed who had experienced a PI or negligence claim would support making a claim via an on-line portal. It follows that plans to extend the small claims limit to £5,000 would trigger further concern from the public, since it will leave even more claims in the inexperienced hands of claimants, left to their own devices, with no legal representation to make a claim against represented defendants.
More worrying for the Government is that the majority of individuals don’t share the view (and a key argument in support of the change) that many claimants are making spurious or exaggerated claims. Usually the public are pretty good at seeing through things, so this begs the question as to who actually wants the ‘reforms’. It’s not exactly a thumbs-up to the latest round of Government intervention in our sector. To be fair, the survey also suggests that most folks think the changes will lead to lower insurance premiums, another key plank for the changes, but I fear they will be disappointed.
Insurers are not happy either. The report coincided with news that some insurers are more than a little concerned about the lack of progress towards the launch of the portal next April. There will not be enough time for them to prepare. According to a report on Legal Futures, Anthony Baker from NFU Mutual said, it was ‘an impossible task’. It would seem, from the same report, that many insurers are unhappy with the deadline. They are also cheesed off that they will be left to detect fraud as the portal won’t be able to do so.
This is disturbing news and it would be easy to conclude that no one is happy with the state of things.
APIL’s position has been typically consistent; the Government should get it right, rather than get it done by an arbitrary deadline. I think most stakeholders would agree that there are so many unanswered questions about how it will actually work that the dogged determination to have it done by April (parallels with Brexit? I’ll let you decide) is driving the sector into the unknown, hoping that no obstacles strike along the way (and if they do the charities sector can pick them up). Unfortunately, this blinkered approach looks doomed to fail and while all stakeholders will be left to pick up the pieces, it is injured people at the end of the chain who will be the biggest losers. When it comes to IT projects, you would hope the Government would learn from previous mistakes.
Leaving aside the obvious need to revisit and re-think the rationale for the introduction of the changes in the first place, the situation as it stands is a prime example of unnecessary brinkmanship. Despite concerns, it seems that the insurance industry as a whole is not ready to call for a delay and admit that the approach is flawed. The Government is determined to implement the changes, but it must not do so by washing its hands of its responsibility to ensure the system works properly for injured people.
It’s time to face up to reality, remove the blinkers and set a sensible timetable.