Since the introduction of the MOJ portal we have seen lots of movement in the PI market. Firms have closed, some mergers have taken place and many have had to change the whole way they generate work into the practice. Most recently we have seen the long established MPH in Manchester be swallowed up by Irwin Mitchell. We have also seen a huge rise in the number of firms bulking up their disease departments and many small firms opening to focus purely on disease claims, especially noise induced hearing loss (“NIHL”).
The majority of the NIHL claims fall outside of the new portal and therefore are more profitable in nature. This is because a solicitor can charge an hourly rate as opposed to working on a fixed fee basis. Although a small number of deafness claims can be processed through the portal, a large number fall out of it. This is mainly due to factors such as multiple defendants, lack of paperwork or an inability to meet the stage time frames set on the portal.
It has been suggested that NIHL claims have replaced bread and butter whiplash claims and so it may again open up the flood gates for fraudulent claims. The reason fraud was so prevalent in whiplash claims was largely due to the fact it was fairly difficult to define and so open to exaggeration by the claimant. However with NIHL claims, claimants are required to undergo deafness diagnostic tests fairly early on, which by their nature are factual and so cannot be made up or exaggerated.
Given the potential loop holes around why NIHL falls outside the portal it will be interesting to see over the coming months whether there will be more changes to the new system in order to stem this potentially huge rise in disease claims