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Damages Claims Portal – Further Updates – Insurance Laws and Products


Previous DCP updates

In our latest update on the Damages Claims Portal we outline
the current platform enhancements and look ahead to some imminent
future enhancements

Following on from our previous updates, we have met further with
the HMCTS DCP project leads and Mr. Justice Johnson this week and
can update you further on the following relevant to the operation
of the DCP.

Current DCP platform enhancements

  • Defendant users of the DCP are now able to add a Defence to the
    DCP where the response to the claim is part admission.

    • Previously, if a defendant did not intend to defend the whole
      claim, then the claim would drop from the DCP and continue the
      traditional paper route.

    • A claim will no longer drop from the DCP where the defendant
      indicates they intend to defend part of the claim.


  • When a defendant’s solicitor is given notice of claim in
    the DCP they must provide the claimant’s solicitor with an
    appropriate email address for service. If the defendant’s
    solicitor does not provide an email address, then the
    claimant’s solicitor can chose an email address they deem
    appropriate to notify claim details.

    • Early notification by clients to Weightmans is crucial where we
      are nominated to act to allow sufficient time for us to provide the
      correct email address to the claimant’s solicitor.

    • If we are unable to respond in time to the claimant’s
      solicitor, then this could lead to notification of claim details to
      any email address at Weightmans.

    • Clients should continue to provide claimant’s solicitors
      with the email address dcp@weightmans.com when nominating us. (For all
      other claims, not proceeding via the Damages Claims Portal, please
      continue to provide claimant solicitors with the email address serviceofproceedings@weightman.com)

Imminent future enhancements

  • Exploring whether email notifications can be sent to the
    parties when a claim has been dismissed with the aim of providing
    clarity to the parties.

  • Working towards understanding whether more than one extension
    of time can be added on the DCP. Currently only one extension of
    time can be added to the DCP.

  • Work is commencing to allow Notice of Change and Certificate of
    Service functionality.

Future Developments

We have included a flowchart showing the delivery of the Civil
Reform Plan. Click here to enlarge

1239560a.jpg

DCP mandatory for defendant legal representatives

Defendant mandation communication letter

Following on from our latest update below about the use of the
DCP becoming mandatory for defendants from 15 September 2022, HMCTS
have issued a letter to all defendant solicitors.

Notably, in the absence of an acceptable reason why the DCP has not
been used, any paper responses sent to CCMCC beyond 15 September
2022 will be returned.

A link to the updated Practice Direction can be found in the
communication from HMCTS.

DOWNLOAD THE DEFENDANT MANDATION COMMUNICATION
LETTER

As most interested observers will be aware, the Damages Claims
Portal (DCP) has been mandatory for claimant legal representatives
for some time. All claims, for unspecified damages only, must be
commenced in the DCP.

However, up to now, the use of the DCP has been voluntary for
defendants. At present, defendant’s legal representatives must
agree to have proceedings served upon them via the DCP. If
permission is not given, the claim leaves the DCP and proceeds as a
“paper” claim.

From 15 September 2022, using the DCP will become mandatory for
defendant legal representatives.

What are the changes?

The involvement of defendant legal representatives will be
regulated by the updated version of Practice Direction 51ZB of the
Civil Procedure Rules recently released by the Ministry of Justice.
The changes deal primarily with ensuring that the defendant’s
solicitors are in a position to accept service of proceedings via
the Damages Claims Portal:

  • The updated Practice Direction introduces a new requirement for
    the claimant solicitor to notify the defendant at least 14 days
    prior to bringing a claim using the DCP, “unless it is
    impractical to do so”. This requirement is to give the
    defendant the opportunity to instruct a legal representative prior
    to service of proceedings.

  • If the defendant instructs solicitors to accept service of
    proceedings, this must be communicated, by the defendant, to their
    solicitors. This is because there is a requirement for defendant
    solicitors to notify the claimant that they are instructed.

  • The defendant solicitor must sign up to the DCP before the
    claim is started (please note, the claimant solicitor no longer
    needs explicit confirmation from the defendant solicitor that they
    are prepared to accept service of proceedings in the DCP as was the
    case previously).

  • The defendant solicitor must also provide the claimant
    solicitor an email address for claims notifications from the
    DCP.

  • In turn, the claimant solicitor must provide this email address
    to the court.

Comment

The amendments to the Practice Direction seek to increase the
utilisation of the Damages Claims Portal by making its use
mandatory for defendant legal representatives. However, the
amendments do not make it mandatory for defendants to instruct
solicitors prior to issue of proceedings in the DCP. If no
solicitors are instructed the claimant will issue proceedings
within the DCP and then serve them in the traditional way (by post
or some other agreed method). The claim will then drop out of the
DCP and proceed offline.

The amendments give defendants extra breathing space to get
legal representation in place but do not go as far as they could
have in ensuring absolute defendant participation in the DCP. No
doubt, this is due to the current limitations of the DCP, but as it
develops, particularly in allowing the participation of litigants
in person or insurers, this will change.

The modification and development of the Damages Claims Portal
continues at pace. Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service
(HMCTS) has received a huge amount feedback from the legal and
insurance sectors and, as a result, plans a large expansion of the
capabilities of the DCP in near future particularly in the area of
interim applications.

It will be interesting to see if the mandate for defendant legal
representatives and the updated Practice Direction will increase
the utilisation of the DCP.

Mandatory use of the Damages Claims Portal

Our recent
article
reported that the Damages Claims Portal (DCP) has now
become mandatory for claimant legal representatives. This means
that all claims for unspecified damages only must be commenced in
the DCP. This is all part of an ongoing policy to digitise as much
of litigants’ interactions with the courts as possible.

However, up to now, the use of the DCP has been voluntary for
defendants. At present, a defendant’s legal representatives
must agree to have proceedings served upon them via the DCP. If
permission is not given, the claim leaves the DCP and proceeds as a
“paper” claim.

As for defendants who have not instructed solicitors prior to
proceedings being commenced in the DCP, at present, there is no
facility for defendants to sign up to or accept service via the DCP
unless they are represented by solicitors.

Therefore, where insurers often deal with claims prior to issue
of proceedings, it is unsurprising that many claims have started in
the DCP and automatically exited as there are no defendant legal
representatives on the record.

The Damages Claims Portal continues to be developed and tested
and, from 2 June 2022, it will become mandatory for defendant legal
representatives to use the DCP.

The involvement of defendant legal representatives will be
regulated by an updated version of Practice Direction 51ZB of the
Civil Procedure Rules. It is unsurprising that the updated Practice
Direction takes steps to increase the utilisation of the DCP.

The updated Practice Direction introduces a new requirement for
claimant solicitors to notify defendants 14 days prior to bringing
a claim using the DCP. This requirement is presumably to give the
defendant the opportunity to instruct a legal representative prior
to service of proceedings.

If the defendant instructs solicitors to accept service of
proceedings, this must be communicated, by the defendant, to their
solicitors as well as the claimant. This is because there is a
requirement for defendant solicitors to notify the claimant that
they are instructed.

The defendant solicitor must sign up to the DCP before the claim
is started and the claimant solicitor no longer needs confirmation
from the defendant solicitor that they are prepared to accept
service of proceedings in the DCP.

The amendments to the Practice Direction do not make it
mandatory for defendants to instruct solicitors prior to issue of
proceedings in the DCP but do give defendants extra breathing space
to get legal representation in place.

Proceedings where no defendant legal representative has been
nominated will not continue in the Damages Claims Portal, but
should be served in the usual way by post, or some other agreed
method.

It is notable that there has been no expansion of access to the
DCP for parties like insurers or litigants in person. However, it
is certain that modification and development of the DCP continues
at pace. Her Majesties’ Court and Tribunal Service has received
a huge amount feedback from the legal and insurance sectors and, as
a result, plans a large expansion of the capabilities of the DCP in
near future.

It will be interesting to see if the mandate for defendant legal
representatives and the updated Practice Direction will go some way
to increase the utilisation of the DCP.

The Damages Claims Portal is coming

This insight was published on the 31 March 2022.

Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has, over
the last few years, been developing digital services to improve the
efficiency of the courts.

One such innovation is the Damages Claims Portal (DCP) which is
imminently due to leave the pilot stage and become mandatory for
use by claimants from 4 April 2022 and for defendants from June
2022.

Weightmans is at the forefront of the testing of the DCP, from a
defendant perspective, and is working with HMCTS to request key
features that will benefit the parties are included.

What is the Damages Claims Portal?

The Damages Claims Portal is an online claims process for county
court damages claims that facilitates the digital issue of a claim.
The DCP is designed to allow defendants to respond to the claim
digitally via the Portal.

The DCP is intended, in the long term, to be a full and
streamlined end to end service for damages claims in the county
court. However, at present, the DCP service guides a claim from
issue of proceedings to filing of directions questionnaires
only.

The DCP enables users to issue and serve proceedings,
acknowledge receipt of the claim, file a defence, seek a defence
extension, file directions questionnaires, file proposed directions
and upload documents. This is all completed via the Portal without
the need to send paper or PDF documents to the court. The DCP also
has a notification function that automatically serves documents on
an opponent’s legal representatives at the same time as they
are filed in the DCP.

After the claim has passed the Directions Questionnaire stage,
the claim, for now, exits the DCP and continues in the county court
in the current format.

What claims are affected by the DCP?

The Damages Claims Portal will cover all county court claims for
damages only. This includes claims for personal injury. There are
various claim types that are not covered by the DCP including:

  • Claims brought under CPR 8 (for example, infant approval
    proceedings);

  • Claims where the claimant is a protected party; and

  • Claims with more than three parties.

Key differences in the way claims are handled

The Damages Claims Portal never closes. It is open for a
claimant to issue proceedings outside of office hours including
weekends. However, this does not affect the rules of service
— defences still must be filed by 4pm on the last available
day as provided for in the Civil Procedure Rules.

The DCP seeks to speed up the administrative tasks around
bringing a claim for damages so that, over time, court backlogs
will start to decrease.

The court will not automatically enter judgment in respect of
claims that are not responded to in the DCP. If there is no
response then the claimant will have to apply for judgment. If the
claimant does not do so, then the claim will be dismissed from the
DCP after 6 months.

What preparations need to be made by insurers and
self-insured?

Developing effective internal processes within legal
representative organisations will be key in ensuring a smooth
transition to Damages Claims Portal. An important aspect of this is
creating central points of contact for receipt of new proceedings
between representatives and the DCP. This will help create the same
visibility in respect of DCP-issued proceedings as exists in the
current email and post-based system.

Parties engaging with claimants preparing to issue proceedings
via the DCP, be they insurers, self-insureds or legal
representatives, can assist in this process by identifying to
claimants the correct email address for DCP purposes of their
chosen legal representatives.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.



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