The Motor Insurer's Bureau might have outlined how it expects the proposed litigant in person portal to work. But Marcus Taylor, director of claims at Minster Law, argues that while this might be fine for 'sunny day' scenarios, there was much detail missing about how it would cope with more complicated claims.
‘The LiP Portal’ could be the title of a Robert Ludlum-style thriller, flying off the shelves of all good airport bookshops this summer.
Certainly, the project is shrouded in mystery; claimant trade bodies including Motor Accident Solicitors Society, Association of Consumer Support Organisations and the Credit Hire Organisation (and, rumour has it, some insurers) have voiced their disquiet about the lack of engagement from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau and the Ministry of Justice. Cross-sector workstreams have stalled and the key players’ diaries are off-limits.
Bowing to pressure for more transparency, the MIB recently unveiled its outline customer journey for the portal, but the look and feel of the design was distinctly high-level, a ‘sunny day’ version of the claims journey that simply underlined how much is still missing, especially how to deal with complicated scenarios, which makes up the vast majority of cases.
But what customers want and need is an easy route to claims settlement (personal injury or otherwise), or they’ll disengage. This self-evident truth puts ministers in a difficult position, because it is inevitable that obstacles and blockers in the ‘simple’ portal will mean customers falling out of the system, so failing to access justice. In other words, the portal risks achieving the polar opposite effect to the government’s stated objective.
Whether the government’s objectives are to improve access to justice is a moot point. Insurers have already dropped their premiums in ‘anticipation of the cost savings from the Civil Liability Act,’ underlining what many critics felt during the passage of the Bill through Parliament; that the reforms are all about the money.
The MIB has outlined the practical process but some of the key fundamental questions remain unanswered: We have no idea what the customer will actually experience. How will it feel for a customer to start this process and what will they see?
Now, we need to see the front-end user interface, user experience and design. How will customers, whose injuries mature, know what to do next or what they are entitled to as their position changes? How big will the call centre need to be to facilitate the customer experience?
Naturally, the call centre will assist customers lacking internet access, but there is every chance that it will also end up troubleshooting for thousands of customers encountering problems with the portal or, just simply, wanting to know what happens next. Many customers still need this verbal assurance to participate in online journeys. That feels expensive.
The point is that we are all in this together. Nobody wants to see genuinely injured customers fending for themselves, or simply giving up and living with the consequences of a non-fault injury. The answer is to bring the claimant sector into the process and work with us to iron out the multiplicity of problems that are emerging, and, if necessary, delay implementation until there is confidence it can work for all customer scenarios, not just the “sunny day” cases. After all, the MoJ delayed whiplash reforms until 2020 for this exact reason – let’s hope they stick to their word. Better to arrive late in this life than early into the next, as the saying goes.