Over the summer, I wrote a piece for the insurance press, putting the government’s new Official Injury Claim service (OICS) ‘on trial’ for the many accusations that had been levelled at it.

For those unfamiliar with the full and tortuous history of the Civil Liability Act 2018, its much-delayed implementation finally came about this year, with the launch of the OICS website, through which individuals who need to claim for soft tissue injuries sustained in a road traffic accident have been expected to initiate and manage their case, without the help of a solicitor, since May 31st.

I was not going to let my judgment be swayed by the work we had put in to ensuring that ARAG had redeveloped both our before-the-event (BTE) and after-the-event (ATE) products to address the new legislation, in time for the original deadline.

For the insurance market, this meant relaunching our BTE motor product in May 2019, to ensure that policies still in force a year later would reflect the change in law that was supposed to happen in April 2020. We obviously had a little more time for our ATE policy, but still a lot of work went into it.

Aside from those repeated delays, the charges that OICS and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) still have to face are numerous.

Some, such as the allegation that it entrenches a disparity of arms between claimant and defendant, are hard to refute. Others, however, including the charge that OICS has been fundamentally undermined by lack of awareness and an absence of promotion directing motorists to the website, were more difficult to assess fairly, until some early data have been reported.

So, we’ve waited for the early returns, the figures showing how OICS got on in its first few months of operation and, perhaps, how usage grew over that period.

The first quarter data, for accidents reported in June, July and August, were due to drop in mid-September, but the MoJ offered instead, the weakest of excuses.

In a statement released to stakeholders the MOJ offered only that “...publication of data has had to be delayed” because of “...the recent change in Ministerial responsibilities”.

The latest cabinet reshuffle, in which Dominic Raab replaced Robert Buckland as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice began on September 15, by which time the OICS data should already have been collated, analysed and presented, ready for somebody - presumably less senior than a Secretary of State - to press ’publish’.

The MoJ might as well have claimed the dog had eaten this highly-anticipated piece of homework.

It’s fair to say that Mr Raab has some very serious issues to attend to (not least his dictionary) but more is the reason his appointment should have nothing to do with the publication of these figures.

The widely held suspicion is, inevitably, that the data make for some unpleasant reading about the service, that usage has been low, people have struggled with its complexity and that the huge majority of claimants still need legal representation.

So, the most serious charges levelled at OICS remain unanswered.

The cross-sector working group set up by the Motor Insurance Bureau to explore the unresolved issue of so-called hybrid injuries (where claims include both tariff and non-tariff injuries) is looking to the courts to answer it. Looking at some data the MoJ does release, on court backlogs, I’m not holding my breath.

Early reports suggested that the overall number of claims made through OICS was much lower than expected, which may stem from that general complexity, lack of awareness, lack of public confidence using the site and having to assess the value of one’s own claim or, most likely, all of the above.

Obviously, the primary purpose of the Civil Liability Act was to reduce the overall cost of personal injury claims. While it seems unlikely that OICS will have made much difference through its streamlined and efficient mechanism for resolving personal injury disputes with motor insurers, it may ultimately achieve it by simply making it too onerous for a layperson to bring a claim at all.

Until its report card for the first quarter has been published, we are all still in the dark and judgement will have to be deferred. Let’s hope the new Justice Minister won’t keep us waiting too much longer.

Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.