By Stephen Higham, personal injury solicitor
The new RTA claims process for accident claims has been causing stress in the halls of Westminster recently.
Promoted by the big wealthy motor insurers as a way of ensuring their shareholders become even richer, it now appears that this may be an embarrassing PR disaster for the government only weeks before the election, expected to be on 6 May 2010.
The concept was sound enough: make personal injury solicitors such as David Phillips & Partners and motor insurers communicate via a secure website to efficiently deal with road traffic accident claims. This would save money for the insurers (always their priority, despite what their cosy t.v. adverts may tell you), and time for the accident victims.
The problems arose when it was realised that the website developers were having trouble getting it to work. Rumour has it that early on in the testing process only four claims were entered into a system designed to handle thousands, causing the whole system to crash! I’ve also heard that the system went down when the developers, based in Bologna in Northern Italy of all places, couldn’t get to work to fix it due to the snow!
Now it appears that some of the big name insurers have decided to opt out of the scheme, as they realise that they can’t turn around cases within the strict timetables allowed.Â After all their complaining about solicitors’ costs, they’d rather keep things as they are, with their inefficient and understaffed claims departments, some of which keep you ‘on hold’ on the phone for over half an hour rather than take your call.
Now the government has trouble on its hands.Â Insurers and solicitors are, for once, united in agreeing that the new scheme is poorly thought out with insufficient time allowed for it to be introduced smoothly.
Delaying the start date by 24 days to the end of April is unlikely to solve matters even with the various computer experts working flat out. And yet the government has insisted on the start date of 30 April regardless.
The publicity generated if the newÂ system fails couldn’t come at a worse time, with an election only 5 weeks later. The government will be reminded of the costly errors caused with their previous computer systems, such as the tax credits system, digitising medical records, and all those stories where personal data went missing on laptops.
For readers old enough to remember ex- Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan and the ‘winter of discontent’ in 1978-1979, they’ll recall that his failure to face up to realities,Â and The Sun’s ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ newspaper headline, contributed to his downfall and a new Conservative government.
Is history about to repeat itself?