RTA Portal problems – what can we learn from them?

Many people are still unaware that UK personal injury firms handling road traffic accident (RTA) claims are having serious problems connecting to a new electronic data exchange that was recently  launched by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Introduced as part of MoJ reforms to speed up the processing of hundreds of thousands of RTA claims between £1,000 and £10,000, this new RTA “portal” was initially touted as a secure way of exchanging data related to claims.

In theory, solicitors should have been able to access the portal easily via their web browser or case management software – yet because of delayed software testing, many firms using the case management software route can only submit a claim to an insurer, and cannot progress to ‘stage two’, where, if the insurer accepts liability, the parties agree on damages.

Members of the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) feel that there have been serious failings in both the design and execution of the RTA portal, and are disappointed that the RTA project team and contractors seem unwilling to communicate with the Association – nor with individual LSSA members – about this situation. The Association recognises that these are busy times for those involved with the RTA Portal, and that they are trying to deal with a high volume of difficult queries. However, the LSSA is becoming increasingly frustrated with lack of response to our urgent queries on this matter.

The LSSA is currently working with a large number of law firms who have a mandatory process to follow for low-value RTA claims. For high-volume operations, it is simply not practical for them use the web interface for this purpose, which means that they desperately need members of the LSSA to provide a solution that can offer so-called “A2A integration”. In order to address this issue, the LSSA has offered to meet with those responsible for the RTA Portal many times. However, this suggestion has yet to be acknowledged, let alone accepted. As such, and as things currently stand, the LSSA is finding it very difficult to make any progress in this area.

Although its members can sometimes implement “emergency” changes to software very quickly, the LSSA’s typical concept-design-build-test-deploy cycle is three months – a fact that is well known and documented by the MoJ, who has agreed to a specific set of protocols which clearly describe the timescales required for effecting changes to any of the Legal Services Commission’s (LSC) systems.

Already, the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) has issued guidance to its members suggesting that it may be necessary for them to revert to paper-based claims. Clearly, if the LSSA is unable to complete its A2A integration work, this group will become even larger, and will only add to the current concerns surrounding the RTA portal.

The LSSA provides a highly representative and unified voice for the legal software industry and is therefore best placed to provide a strong focus in establishing standards and cooperation between suppliers, professional bodies, and government organisations.  The Association has set up and actively contributes to a number of different working parties and forums, representing and lobbying on behalf of its members with HM Land Registry, HMRC, PISCES, Court Service and the LSC.

Above all else, the LSSA remains frustrated by the reluctance of those involved with the RTA portal to engage in constructive consultation – or any consultation at all – with the companies that provide software for the vast majority of claimant solicitors.  They were not willing to do this in the early stages of the project, nor when the consultation was initiated, and in fact have not engaged with the LSSA effectively at any point thus far.

The LSSA would welcome the opportunity to help the MOJ to succeed in this project – and future projects – but we can only do so if both sides work together to build a constructive dialogue at the early stages of projects like these, and also during the course of the development. We understand the need to cut costs and make systems more efficient:  that is exactly what our member companies have been doing for years.  For all of these reasons, our message to the MoJ is simple:  the LSSA can help to reduce costs and boost efficiencies within the legal sector – not only for the law firms using our members’ software, but also for the MoJ itself.