Along with the changes in litigation which will be brought in when the deadline for the Jackson Reforms arrives in April of this year, software changes are also being proposed. The deadline for the proposed software updates is 1st April 2013. The software which the government wishes to extend and update by April is the Road Traffic Accident (RTA) portal. This software is currently thought to reduce the costs of claims and speed up the claiming process. However, the software is in its early days and it is thought that a drastic software update could cause problems rather than solve them. The Ministry for Justice wants the RTA portal to cover more claims that it currently does. The portal will cover claims up to £25,000 and from a value of £500. Not only this, but the government also wishes the portal to cover employer liability cases and public liability cases.

This is a big ask of the company which develops the software, because the protocols and rules the software is built in line with have not yet been finalised. In fact the company has to push ahead with the software development on a set of draft protocols and rules which may change again. If the rules change, the software is not going to be possible to complete in time to meet the deadline or may require firms to engage in inputting a large amount of information manually, hindering the effectiveness of the portal’s aim which is to reduce the time it takes to complete a personal injury claim. This is no fault of the software development company as the committee which is developing the protocol – Civil Procedure Rules Committee – did not meet their 7th December 2012 deadline and is now not going to have a finalised set of rules until 8th February 2013, two months late. Consequently it is thought that the first update for the RTA portal software will actually not be available until September 2013.

For this reason the Law Gazette, the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) all support a reassessment of the deadline which has been given to implement the software changes. If the software is going to be brought in, updated, it should be effective and rushing to complete a software update by the April 1st deadline will compromise the effectiveness of the portal for the solicitors and lawyers who use it on a day to day basis.

Author: Nicholas Jervis