A Manchester personal injury firm has accused the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of double standards for not using its own portal for low-value RTA claims where it is the defendant – but still expecting the claimant solicitors to work on portal fees.
Express Solicitors is acting for 10 police officers who are suing the MoJ for injuries suffered in two separate RTAs while at work. The cases have been classed as an RTA, rather than employer’s liability, claims.
The MoJ stipulated that from 31 July 2013, all parties involved in low-value RTAs must use the portal, even if the defendant is self-insured, as the MoJ is here being part of the Crown.
The firm quoted a letter from the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, acting for the MoJ, which said: “Although the Treasury Solicitors Department has no presence on the MoJ portal, we consider that provided the appropriate time limits are adhered to, the fixed-costs regime for low-value RTA personal injury claims will apply to this claim and trust that you agree.”
Rachel Flannigan, head of the RTA department and partner at Express Solicitors said: “We’re absolutely gobsmacked that the MoJ is not using the claims portal it set up and forced everyone to use. Talk about a case of double standards – why is the MoJ not in it when everyone else has to be?”
She added: “The lower costs for using the portal is an incentive to be on it, but if you’re not on it, clearly the protocol cannot apply. To rub salt into the wound, the MoJ wants to conduct our case outside the portal, but only wants to pay portal costs – it beggars belief.
“We all know how the claims portal works, with its set time limits on admissions of liability to keep solicitors’ fees down; if the defendant doesn’t admit liability or comply to any other of its stipulations, the case is taken outside of the portal and costs go up due to the increased interaction between the claimant and defendant.”
Ms Flannigan said she had submitted costs for a claim pursued outside the portal, but these are being disputed. “We’re speaking out because we are pretty much stunned by the double standards,” she said.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are not able to comment on this ongoing case.
“The claims portal was extended as part of successful work by the government to turn the tide on compensation culture and bring down the soaring costs people were facing for insurance premiums. This has already seen dramatic impacts, with the average quoted motor insurance premium falling by £120 in the past year.
“We want claims to be settled quickly and at proportionate cost for the benefit of all parties, and the time limits have been set to help achieve that.”