“The justice committee must bear in mind that both the portal and MedCo systems were designed for sophisticated professional repeat users in law firms and insurance company claims departments. Our experience is that even these users can struggle with aspects of the process."
MAPS Medical Reporting has submitted evidence to the House of Commons justice committee who are scrutinising the government’s proposed increase to the small claims limit in the New Year.
The rise in the small claims limit would see a 400% increase from £1,000 to £5,000 for Road Traffic Accident (RTA) claims, primarily whiplash cases, and £2,000 for other personal injuries. MAPS has previously commented on the practicalities of a small claims rise, stating that the portal and MedCo systems would need a ‘complete overhaul’ to succeed.
With the issue being overshadowed by the general election and subsequent dissolution of parliament, the current justice committee will examine evidence previously submitted - along with written submission up until the 22nd December - and will conduct a one-off evidence session in the New Year.
The specific terms of reference include:
- The impact of raising the small claims limit to £5,000 for RTA-related whiplash claims, and of raising the small claims limit to £2,000 for personal injury claims more generally, taking account of the planned move towards online court procedures.
- The potential impact of this policy on the role of claims management companies and on the operation of the market for ‘before the event’ legal expenses insurance.
MAPS Medical Reporting has submitted evidence to the Justice Select Committee based on their experience of the current portal and MedCo systems as a medical reporting organisation.
David Stothard, managing director of MAPS Medical Reporting says, “Raising the small claims limit will open the floodgates on a claims system that is not adequately designed to cope with litigants in person (LiP) with no legal background.
“The justice committee must bear in mind that both the portal and MedCo systems were designed for sophisticated professional repeat users in law firms and insurance company claims departments. Our experience is that even these users can struggle with aspects of the process. This demonstrates the difficulties likely to be faced in achieving access to justice for individual injury victims who would be using the process for the first and probably only time when it has not been designed with their needs in mind. This could lead to a denial of justice for many who simply cannot access the system and injustices in pay-outs with a larger effect on the claimant’s life if they fail to settle the case in an adequate manner.
“Further difficulties may arise when medico-legal experts need to be selected by the claimants directly in RTA claims through MedCo. Feedback from individual doctors is that they are very reluctant to accept direct instructions from Litigants in Person. If they choose not to do so, this may well call into question the viability of the direct expert instruction aspect of the MedCo process.”