The proposed extension of the RTA Portal, due to take place in April is being reconsidered by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) with the potential for a new date yet to be given.
Ministers wanted to extend the portal to cover not only Road Traffic Accident (RTA) cases but also horizontally to include employer’s and public liability claims, and vertically to include all claim limits to £25,000.
Several lawyers, including Bott and Co Senior Partner David Bott, had cast doubt on the viability of the April deadline, as well as questioning how well such an extended scheme might work in practice.
lessons can, and should have been learned from how the first RTA portal was built.
In a recent speech, Bott said, “lessons can, and should be learned from how the first RTA portal was built.”
Since it’s inception in April 2010, the portal has had around two million notification forms downloaded, and between 60,000 and 85,000 CNF are put on the portal each month. Over 400,000 have settled within the portal and about 24,000 have started stage 3.
In the speech, Bott outlined the strengths of the portal, before suggesting three lessons that might be learnt to smooth the expansion process.
“The portal board has shown a collaborative and collegiate approach between claimant and defendant representatives.”
“The behaviours’ committee has been successful in resolving disputes via non binding arbitration.”
“The amount of time it has been offline is almost negligible.”
“However, “it has not been without its glitches. For instance the stage 3 pack does not reflect the rules. As unless you use a work around, your sealed offers and the offers that the court sees are one and the same.”
“Further the individual web users complain that their interaction with the portal is clunky. “
“But as much as anything, lessons can, and should have been learned from how the first RTA portal was built.”
Lesson One: Are we sure that the current portal is working correctly?
Professor Fenn’s “Evaluating the low value Road Traffic Accident Process” report from July last year concluded the following;
Damages had gone down by 6%,
Costs had gone down by 4% and,
Settlement time had gone down 7%.
any extension to public liability…could result in only a minority settling within the process.
More importantly in his implications and recommendations, he stated the following;
That 50% of all claims exit, mainly at stage 1, and as such any extension to public liability where proof of liability is often an issue could result in only a minority settling within the process.
That, as he only had one year of data without a previous comparator, he was cautious about his comments on costs savings.
That the Reduction in damages was not part of the intended consequences of the RTA process, and may be due to the lack of a ratchet on the RTA fixed costs. He recommended that any extension should consider the dilution that one fee had on solicitors.
That the electronic portal had reduced settlement times which could be down to better administration and communication.
That the RTA process and FRCS should be looked at together, that there should be an integrated system for fixed costs in all RTA and that the fees should be monitored regularly. Further, the fees should be arrived at by reference to what is reasonable and efficient. Once you have done this for the RTA portal, then consider extension of the portal and portal fees.
APIL’s recent report released this week raises further alarm bells about the successfulness of the current portal infrastructure. It states “The latest figures from the Portal co suggest that the exit rate are now even higher, namely some 65 per cent.”
the high drop-out rate is due to insurance industry behaviour.
“The Governments stated aim of the scheme when developed was to simplify the claims procedure and reduced cost, it was not to reduce damages and this concerning trend has simply been ignored. It should be noted that the high drop-out rate is due to insurance industry behaviour with “around half of all notifications … exiting the process due to denial of liability or nonresponse”; both of these factors being solely at the discretion of insurers. “
Professor Fenn’s has commented further since his report, most notably in a recent presentation “The future of the RTA Portal” at a Post Magazine event last November.
“To my knowledge the MoJ hasn’t made any formal response to my report, so I have to infer their views on these from the actions they’ve taken in recent weeks.
Need for a further review before implementation of the Portal extension: it appears that they are committed to implementation in April 2013 without any further review of the existing scheme, and they have not as yet announced arrangements for reviewing the proposed extension. I believe some kind of review is planned, but details are sparse. Without a proper benchmark of the current system including longer lasting claims, and because the current set of proposed fixed costs are not evidence-based, a one-off review will in my view be rather limited in its scope and objectives.”
Lesson Two: Have the rules settled before you start building.
In the same speech. David Bott stated “Last time the rules were finalised in the February before the ‘go live’ date in April. This was a significant problem for the developers and it looks likely that this could happen again.”
“This time around the Civil Procedure Rules Committee was tasked with revising the protocols to allow vertical and horizontal extension of the portal.
“The rules were meant to have been completed by July 2012. Thus allowing time for the new process to be built for April 2013. The final protocols are yet to be published and the rollout has been delayed.”
“I can understand the delay as Protocols for the Horizontal extension and defining what exactly EL and PL means is no small task.”
the final protocols are yet to be published and we are now less than two months away from the go live date
“But the final protocols are yet to be published and we are now less than two months away from the go live date.”
“Looking at the draft protocols, I can see a world in which protocols for the vertical extension are easy to integrate into the IT systems for April 2013.“
“But, I think a brand new protocol for the horizontal extension into Employers Liability and Public Liability matters is a very different kettle of fish.“
“It is hoped that the CPRC will hopefully finalise the protocols before the end of February. So I wait with anticipation to see what comes out of the CPRC and whether the April date is indeed achievable.
Lesson Three: Give plenty of time for testing before you roll the new system.
David Bott suggests that proper testing and some practical problems need to be surmounted.
time for testing is extremely tight, and less testing reduces the likelihood of a smooth start.
“At best we will have rules in the coming weeks, then we can put in the IT infrastructure, so time for testing is extremely tight, and less testing reduces the likelihood of a smooth start.”
“Another stumbling block that I perceive, is how you get started on the extended portal?”
“The true elegance of the current portal is the power and accuracy of the askMID searches, allowing the claimant representatives to make the claim against the correct insurer.”
“What is the equivalent for EL and PL? ELTO only gets you so far. For instance, how do you get started when the liability is in an occupier’s liability matter?”
“In essence, I am in the do it right camp, rather than the do it quick camp, and if that means a slight delay or an uneven roll out, then all the delay in implementation will be made up later.”
“So, I strongly urge the MOJ to listen to the view of Professor Fenn, take stock and at the very least consider staggering the extension of the portal to allow vertical extension prior to horizontal.”