The Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) has called for an urgent review of governance arrangements for the new official injury claim (OIC) service, ahead of its April 2021 launch date.
MASS said it is concerned at the lack of external oversight or governance of the new service which, it pointed out, is designed, funded, developed and operated by the insurance sector through the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB).
The OIC service is central to the government’s whiplash reforms, under which those injured in a road traffic accident (RTA) with a claim of under £5,000 will have to pursue their claim through the new service – whether or not they have a lawyer.
MASS said control and access to all future data and information in the new claims process will be in the hands of the insurance industry and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) alone.
“It is simply not acceptable to create a new RTA claims system wholly and independently run by and at the behest of insurers”, said Paul Nicholls, chair of MASS.
MASS represents around 100 solicitor firm members throughout the UK.
He commented: “MIB is not a neutral player in this process but an integral part of the insurance industry.
“It continues to be disturbing that the insurance industry alone will be the gatekeepers to the management and use of all future claims data and information.”
He said the issue of governance “cannot be left to sort out post-implementation as a nice-to-have” but must be addressed in advance.
MASS and others have regularly raised the issue for two years now.
Nicholls warned that if the new claims process “falls far short of being fit-for-purpose, claimant representatives will be necessary to help OIC navigate the many difficult and complex issues ahead”.
Yet resolving the issue should not be difficult, he said.
Claims Portal and MedCo have both worked effectively with an independent board for oversight since their inception, according to Nicholls.
Each have had a balanced board of representatives from across the sector and an independent chairperson since they were established.
Nicholls said: “This is a model that could be replicated for the OIC service.”
MASS believes that “cross-sector representation is vital to ensure that the claims process remains fair and justice is retained for the accident victim and their representatives”.
According to the Cabinet Office/HM Treasury 2017 Corporate governance code for central government departments, “good corporate governance is fundamental to any effective and well-managed organisation and is the hallmark of any corporate entity that is run accountably and with the long-term interest clearly in mind.”