The Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) announces “significant progress” during latest RTA Portal consultation
High-level talks have produced a way forward that is more acceptable for all concerned, according to the LSSA
The Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA), the UK industry body for legal systems developers and vendors, has today announced that “significant progress” has been made during its most recent consultation with the team responsible for the RTA PI Low Value Claims Portal, the secure online data exchange that has been designed to handle RTA personal injury claims between £1,000 and £10,000.
The RTA portal was originally introduced as part of Ministry of Justice reforms to speed up insurance claims and reduce their cost, as it promises to facilitate the swift, electronic exchange of all relevant claim information between lawyers and insurers so that key decisions can be communicated quickly and without any duplication. In theory, this streamlined flow of information between all parties involved with a case would help to reduce operational costs and enable the insurer/compensator to agree settlement more promptly.
A number of long-standing problems finally came to a head last year, however, when the RTA portal submitted a draft contract to the software vendors who will be supporting the scheme – including many members of the LSSA – as the agreement included a number of stipulations that the Association felt were unacceptable.
However, an updated contract is expected to address many of these concerns, and the LSSA will therefore work alongside the RTA Portal team as the project continues to expand in line with new Government plans announced last week, which aim to extend the RTA PI Claims Protocol for claims valued up to £25,000 and to develop a Claims Protocol for Employers’ Liability and Public Liability.
“Our members are totally committed to working with the RTA portal team to create a system that will help the greatest number of law firms to process RTA claims most efficiently, and therefore help the greatest number of claimants,” says Ian Wimbush, Chairman of the LSSA. “However, this vision cannot come at the expense of our members’ rights. As such, we have explained our concerns regarding certain contractual issues, and have reached an understanding on how many of these problems can be resolved for the mutual benefit of all involved.”
Despite this recent progress, some concerns still remain over the distinction between the software vendors’ responsibilities with regard to the RTA portal, compared with the responsibilities assigned to the Portal’s users. However, the RTA portal team and the LSSA are working around this issue by reviewing prospective User Agreements very carefully in order to ensure that the most appropriate terminology is being used throughout.
The question of insurance represents another sticking point, however, as the Portal will only accept limited liability for any data loss, reputational data or other problems related to the use of the Portal, whilst software vendors are left fully exposed to these risks – even though software vendors do not actually require any access or interaction with the live Portal at all, and are happy to trial their products on the Portal’s test site exclusively.
Similarly, a requirement that software vendors are willing to undertake their “best endeavours” to trace any unauthorised Portal users of which they have become aware is also yet to be resolved. Because the Portal itself is only required to undertake “reasonable endeavours”, the LSSA still considers this particular stipulation to be unbalanced and unreasonable, as in some case it could require a commercial sacrifice on the vendor’s part.
“Although there are still a few issues that need to be resolved, the RTA portal team clearly shares our desire to foster better communication amongst all concerned parties in an RTA claim,” Ian Wimbush added. “All-in-all, we feel very positive about the future for these contractual agreements and the opportunity for greater cooperation with the Portal team. By working together in this way, we can make sure that that lawyers, insurers and claimants will be able to gain the maximum benefit from this project.”
The RTA portal’s revised contract for software vendors is due to be released at the end of March 2012.