You may have heard of the Ministry of Justice’s Claims Portal, and the phrase ‘sending a Letter of Claim’. If you’ve ever wondered how they fit into the world of personal injury claims then you’re in the right place!
In general, they represent two separate routes by which claims can proceed.
If you are thinking of making a personal injury claim, however, you will not be able to choose which of these processes your case will follow – that will depend on the circumstances of your claim and its likely value. Nevertheless, it can be useful to know the main features of each, particularly as some cases started in the Claims Portal can end up following the same process as ‘Letter of Claim cases’.
The Claims Portal
Since 2013, most personal injury claims up to the value of £25,000 must be dealt with through the Claims Portal.
The Portal itself is a secure, online electronic system used by Claimants, their representatives, and by the parties defending the claims – such as insurance companies.
There can be many advantages to using the Claims Portal – it is free of charge to use, and it can be said to streamline the process of settling a personal injury claim.
It is important not to confuse the Claims Portal with the Official Injury Claims Portal, which is a separate system (used for most road traffic accident claims where whiplash injuries have been sustained). To find out more about the Official Injury Claims Portal, please read our guidance on the 2021 Whiplash reforms.
Sending a Letter of Claim
Before the Claims Portal was first set up in 2010, all claims had to be started by sending a Letter of Claim. Nowadays, only cases which are not eligible to go through the Claims Portal process need to be started by a Letter of Claim.
The Letter of Claim is directed towards the party whom you hold responsible for your injuries (the Defendant). In reality, however, it is usual for the Letter of Claim to be sent to the Defendant’s insurance company and/or their legal representatives – either instead of, or as well as, the Defendant themselves.
The Letter of Claim has to contain certain information such as:
- A summary of the case
- The allegations against the Defendant – i.e. why you hold them responsible for your injuries
- Brief details of your injuries
- Any financial losses you have incurred
It can also include other details, such as any rehabilitation needs you may have.
In most cases, you will not have the full details (or supporting evidence) for your injuries and financial losses at the time the Letter of Claim is sent. If so, your Letter of Claim should state what information it can, and mark the rest as ‘TBC’ (To Be Confirmed).
There are several example Letters of Claim in our free Legal Library.
Will my claim go through the Claims Portal or not?
Generally speaking, if your personal injury claim is thought to be worth less than £25,000, it will go through the Claims Portal – at least to start with. Claims can exit the Claims Portal process for a variety of reasons, such as if liability is disputed.
Cases with more complicated circumstances may also be unsuitable for the Claims Portal, even if their expected value is not higher than £25,000.
As mentioned above, a claim which has been started through the Claims Portal, can ‘exit’ the process if the Defendant disputes liability for the injuries being claimed. If this happens, the case will follow the same process followed by cases begun by a Letter of Claim. The Defendant will then have 3 months to investigate (from the date upon which the Portal claim was started).
When starting your claim, you should discuss with your solicitor which ‘path’ they believe the claim will take.
Key differences between Claims Portal cases and Letter of Claim cases
The actual law covering personal injury claims does not change between the two pathways – and you can read more about the legal basis of claims in our various legal guides covering different kinds of accident. But there are many procedural differences.
Below is an overview of some of the main areas where the two pathways differ:
If your claim is going through the Claims Portal then all communication between you and the Defendant/insurers is conducted via the online Portal system.
The Claims Portal process is much more rigid than that the ‘Letter of Claim’ process. It is divided into 3 Stages and certain information must be supplied at various points throughout, though not every case will go through all three Stages (for more information on this, read our blog: Do Personal Injury Claims Always Go to a Stage 3 Court Hearing?).
Supplying information on the Portal is done through set forms which allow very little flexibility in how they are completed. For example, the Claims Notification Form (CNF) is used to start a Portal claim. This must be sent to the Defendant (or more likely their insurers) electronically through the system. The system ensures that there is sufficient information on the CNF, with mandatory boxes to be completed and basic validation checks.
For cases begun by a Letter of Claim there are still formalities to meet. However, there is much more scope for flexibility, both in the information given and in the timescales to be met (see below).
An overview of the whole Claims Portal process and its different Stages can be found in our Knowledge Centre.
The Claims Portal process imposes strict and tight deadlines, although this is helped by the fact that all documents are sent electronically.
After the CNF has been sent, the Portal requires the Defendant to send an acknowledgement within one working day. In comparison to a claim where a Letter of Claim has been sent, the deadline would be 21 days after the date upon which the Letter of Claim was posted.
When the Defendant has acknowledged the CNF, they also have to send back a more complete response. The deadline for this will depend on the type of personal injury claim being made:
- For road traffic accidents, they must send a response within 15 working days of the CNF
- For employer’s liability claims (such as accidents at work or assaults at work), they have 30 working days
- For public liability claims (such as slips, trips, and falls) they have 40 working days.
These deadlines speed up the process and ensure that the claim advances onto the next stages of the Portal process in a timely manner.
The timescales are quite different when sending a Letter of Claim. The Defendant must acknowledge receipt of the Letter of Claim within 3 weeks instead, and they then have three months from their acknowledgement letter in which to investigate and provide a full, detailed response with a decision on liability.
There is no guarantee that a Claims Portal case will take less time than a Letter of Claim case, especially if the case has to leave the Portal at any point. However, given the stricter timescales and overall lower level of complexity usually found in Portal Claims, generally they will take less time to complete.
Making a claim with Truth Legal
If you are thinking of making a personal injury claim, why not speak to us about your situation? Our specialist personal injury lawyers have helped many people claim compensation for their injuries, all whilst providing a service which is exceptionally well rated on Trustpilot and ReviewSolicitors.