In a dramatic climbdown, the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling has agreed that extension of the RTA portal to higher-value motor and employer’s and public claims will now not happen in April 2013.
The decision, which emerged late on Friday, follows the judicial review process begun last month by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS).
MASS said Mr Grayling had acknowledged it would be unlawful to implement the extension of portal because the full evaluation of the existing portal that was promised when this change was announced has not been carried out.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Earlier this year, the government announced proposals to extend the road traffic accident scheme for personal injury claims to £25,000.
“Following a legal challenge the Justice Secretary is now considering afresh the timing for implementation of the extended scheme. Further details will be announced in the New Year.”
However, he said the controversial consultation that proposes slashing portal fees by 60%, closing on 4 January, is unaffected by this decision.
MASS chairman Craig Budsworth said: “MASS is pleased at the decision, which will give all parties the opportunity to take a more reasoned and considered approach to this and avoid the headlong rush to the radical changes to the landscape that were all proposed for April 2013.
“This highlights the need to ensure that a full impact assessment of all the proposed changes should be undertaken and not introduced piecemeal. We will continue to work with all stakeholders in ensuring that changes do not prejudice accident victims whilst at the same time continuing to work to eradicate the small percentage of fraudulent claims that are doing so much to detract from the interests of genuinely injured victims.”
APIL president Karl Tonks said: “We have said from the outset that we do not object in principle to the introduction of changes which speed up and improve the civil justice system for the benefit of all parties.
“Our concern in this instance, however, is that proper consideration of key issues was being sacrificed in favour of an impractical ambition to introduce extensions to the RTA portal by next April. We look forward now to offering further input on what the implementation date may be.”
The Ministry of Justice did commission Professor Paul Fenn to conduct an evaluation into the operation of the RTA portal, which was published after much delay in July. This only covered the first year of the portal’s operation and the academic recommended that another year’s worth of data should be collected before taking forward plans to extend it.
It has also been clear early on that it would be challenging for the company that runs the electronic portal to have the extensions in place for April, a point emphasised last week when it expressed concerns about the problems that could flow from the Civil Procedure Rule Committee’s failure to approve the underlying protocols and rules.