If you have been unfortunate enough to be injured in a car accident as a passenger or driver – and this happened after May 2021 – it is likely that any personal injury claim you may have made has become ensnared in the Official Injury Claim (OIC) Portal process.

This process was introduced following legal reforms to personal injury claims for whiplash. The reforms’ stated aim was to provide a straightforward pathway for people suffering whiplash injuries, so they could claim compensation without the need for lawyers, and to save everyone money by reducing car insurance premiums.

We’ll look briefly at whether these aims have been met later in the blog (spoiler: they haven’t!) but mainly this blog will focus on how your claim may be able to exit the OIC process, and why this is often beneficial.

And if you ever want to know more about the details of the reforms, and how they’ve affected claims, you can read about them in our guide here.

Are there benefits to my claim leaving the OIC Portal?

It is often beneficial for a claimant to have their claim proceed outside of the OIC process. This is because cases within the process are subject to two main disadvantages:

  1. Compensation is paid according to a rigid tariff system in the OIC process. This means compensation awards for your injuries will generally be much lower than awards in non-OIC claims – even for similar injuries – and the award will not take into account how your life has been affected by your injuries either.
  2. You are unable to claim legal fees through the OIC process. As such, this gives you the unattractive options of either: making your claim without any legal representation and dealing with it by yourself, or paying legal fees out of your own pocket.

To illustrate these points, we can look at the compensation tariff for a whiplash injury that lasts more than 6 months, but not more than 9 months. This is a significant period of time to suffer a painful injury like whiplash, but under the OIC tariff, this injury would be worth £840 in compensation.

If you’ve also suffered psychological symptoms during that time, the award would be increased by a miserly £55 to £895.

Now imagine that you need assistance from a lawyer. Based on the figures for the injuries alone, it scarcely seems worth the trouble of claiming, as the costs of your legal fees will eat in to the amount of compensation you effectively receive.

Unfortunately, a claim must be made through the OIC Portal if it meets the eligibility criteria. And a claim can only exit the process if it is no longer suitable.

What claims are not suitable for the OIC?

The OIC process is not suitable for:

  • Accidents where you were injured:
    • when riding a motorcycle;
    • as a cyclist;
    • as a pedestrian;
    • using wheelchair, a powered wheelchair or a mobility scooter; or
    • when riding a horse
  • Accidents where your injuries are more severe than whiplash (see our guide on the reforms for a full explanation of this)
  • Child accident claims (with ‘child’ meaning anyone who was under the age of 18 at the time of the accident);
  • ‘Hit and run’ accidents (i.e. accidents where the other driver can’t be traced or identified)
  • Accidents that were caused by any non-road-user
  • Accidents where the other driver’s vehicle is registered outside the United Kingdom
  • Situations where either of the parties is acting as the personal representative of a deceased person

If your claim meets any of these criteria then it should not be dealt with through the OIC Portal.

A claim can also exit the process when it involves complicated issues, such as disputes over liability for the accident, or arguments that your injuries have not been caused by the accident in question.

In addition, it is possible for injuries to be discovered as more serious than first thought, especially once medical evidence is obtained. This may mean that the claim is no longer suitable for the OIC process.

Exiting the OIC Portal

If your injuries are ‘worth’ over £5,000, your claim can exit the OIC portal and you can instruct a law firm to represent you. Alternatively, if the total value your claim for injuries and financial loss (such as loss of earnings) is in excess of £10,000, your claim can also exit the portal.

The tricky part, of course, is knowing when your claim is likely to be valued over these limits. Valuing any personal injury can be difficult; there’s no mathematical formula to follow, and often it takes judgment and experience – which naturally you won’t have if you aren’t a personal injury lawyer! Another example of how the OIC process puts claimants at a disadvantage.

However, our free ebook, the Ultimate Personal Injury Compensation Guide, has a chapter on valuing injuries which may be useful to you. And if you think your injuries are more severe than those which are appropriate for the OIC Portal, you can speak to us to discuss your circumstances.

Is the OIC Portal working?

The OIC Portal was brought into effect in 2021. A report by the House of Commons Justice Committee found that, as of September 2023, only around 25% of cases which had entered the Portal since its launch had reached settlement. They called for the MOJ to investigate the backlog of claims and why the average claim is taking 251 days to settle.

Another aim of the OIC system was to make the process so straightforward that anyone claiming would be able to do so without having to instruct lawyers to help them. However, according to the OIC Portal’s October-December 2023 quarterly report the overwhelming majority of claimants are engaging legal representation when making their claim. Of the 702,904 claims submitted since the Portal was launched, only 69,352 (less than 10%) were made by unrepresented claimants. Clearly the system is not as easy to use or understand as was promised.

But perhaps most damning of all is the failure to deliver on reduced car insurance costs for the general public. The House of Commons Justice Committee examined this in their report. They noted that the government had estimated that the motor insurance industry would save more than £1.2 billion in costs through the OIC Portal and whiplash reforms – and that these savings would be passed on to customers, with an anticipated reduction of £35 per policy being realised. However, the committee stated:

“whilst the total number of minor personal injury claims has reduced in the last two years, the cost of motor insurance has continued to rise”

Predictably enough, the insurers who gave evidence to the committee about the price rises cited other economic pressures, such as the cost of living increases, the war in Ukraine, and the pandemic as reasons why no savings were apparent to their customers.

Getting further assistance from Truth Legal

Sadly, we cannot provide legal representation for claims that are still proceeding through the OIC portal. But if you think your claim might no longer be suitable for the process, get in touch with our friendly and experienced personal injury lawyers for free advice.

There is a chance that your claim should be dealt with away from the OIC Portal and, if so, Truth Legal can guide you through the next steps in your claim, and help you to achieve the level of compensation that you deserve.

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Catherine Reynolds
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