Are you sure that this claim is proceeding in the DCP?
Jacqui Bickerton and Emmett Boyce investigate an often overlooked but increasingly important aspect of the digitisation of the courts
Online Civil Money Claims
Digitisation of the Courts, MyHMCTS and the DCP
Digitisation of the court process continues to be a hot topic and much ink has been spilled in respect of the Damages Claims Portal (“DCP”). However, in our view this has overshadowed the existence and use of another online court service, the Online Civil Money Claims (“OCMC”) portal.
What is the OCMC?
The OCMC, like the DCP, is an online court platform that allows for the issue and service of specified claims in a digitised manner.
Like the DCP, the OCMC controls the litigation process, at present, from inception of the claim to the Direction Questionnaire stage.
What types of claims does the OCMC cater for?
The OCMC is not that new of a concept. It was originally set up in 2018 as a platform for litigants in person to pursue other litigants in person for money only claims up to the value of £10,000. This platform is still in use and existence.
However, the OCMC has been expanded, on a pilot basis, to allow for legal representative verses legal representative claims. These claims must be for a specified amount and are limited to a value of £25,000 inclusive of interest. As the term “specified amount” indicates, the claim must be purely for a financial remedy and the exact amount claimed must be stated.
There are many exclusions, as with the DCP, of claim types that cannot proceed via the OCMC. For a summary of the exclusions and a comparison with the DCP see the table below:
Where can I find the OCMC?
The OCMC can be found on the MyHMCTS platform that it shares with the DCP. The same MyHMCTS login can be used to access both portals.
Who can use the OCMC?
At present the OCMC is officially open to “early adopters” as it is in its pilot stage. However, in practice, it appears that the OCMC portal is open to all legal representatives who have registered with MyHMCTS.
We have already received several claims via the OCMC.
Pocket Guide to claims using the OCMC and DCP
Type of claim
|Unspecified damages only
|Specified damages only
|No upper limit
|£25,000 where both parties represented
|County Court (CCMCC)
|County Court (CCBC)
|Up to three
|Up to three (if legally represented). A litigant in person (LiP) can only pursue one other LiP
Personal Injury Claims?
Litigant in person can access MyHMCTS?
|Early adopters only
Does this affect me?
The use of the OCMC is likely to affect anyone who deals with claims of a specific value. We are seeing claims against motor insurance providers where claims for fixed sums, such as vehicle damage and credit hire, are common.
It is also known that some legal entities are using the OCMC on behalf of clients who are seeking to recover small to moderate debts.
What are the potential pitfalls?
A major issue, particularly for those acting for self-insureds, insurers and claims handlers is recognising an OCMC claim for what it is. As stated above, the OCMC shares a platform with the DCP and the two look almost identical at first glance. This is compounded by the way the respective platforms are accessed in the same way via MyHMCTS. We have seen evidence of the confusion that this has caused with several claims being received from claimant representatives in the OCMC which were clearly intended to be DCP claims.
Furthermore, recent DCP developments, refinements and future plans seem to be reflected in the OCMC. However, users, both those issuing and responding to claims should be aware that the portals are not exactly the same and are not governed by the same rules.
However, the most pressing issue is in respect of the rules that govern the OCMC. As followers of our DCP updates will know, the rules of the DCP are governed by Practice Direction 51ZB which sets out clearly how the DCP is to be used.
This is not the case in respect of the OCMC. As mentioned above, the OCMC was started in 2018 as a way for litigants in person to pursue claims against each other. As such, the existing rules, contained in Practice Direction 51R, appear to cater for that earlier iteration of the OCMC (which is still in existence) and it is clear a substantial update to the Practice Direction is needed to reflect the rules of the legal representative service.
In practice, the OCMC works much like the DCP, and a handler can be guided, to an extent, by the notifications provided by the platform itself. However, those versed in DCP handling will notice some marked differences, such as, there being no requirement to complete an acknowledgement of service screen within the OCMC.
We have managed to bridge some of the early issues with the DCP through our engagement with the relevant HMCTS development team, which continues. It is also anticipated that relevant rules will be formalised and published in the near future.
What steps should I be taking?
It does not appear that the OCMC is mandatory for claimant representatives to use yet. However, it is likely, if you regularly deal with specified claims, with you will see an OCMC claim soon. For insurers, self-insureds and claims handlers, our advice is to continue to follow our earlier guidance in respect of the DCP. Nominate your legal representatives at an early stage and inform them and the claimant’s legal representative of the nomination. In respect of those who make use of our services please note that our previously supplied email of firstname.lastname@example.org should be supplied to claimant representatives in respect of OCMC claims as well.
For all queries and concerns in respect of the OCMC please also contact us at DCPqueries@weightmans.com
What developments will we see in the future?
Given that we have seen instances of legal representatives using the OCMC without full knowledge that they where not using the DCP rather than just “early adopters”, we would suggest that mandation for both claimant and defendant representatives will follow in the next 12 months.
As outlined above, DCP innovations appear to be mirrored in the OCMC. Therefore, we expect the further innovations to be introduced in the near future to include applications for default judgement, standard directions, filing of interim applications and onward development of a full “end to end” process to cover the whole life of the claim.
For further information on the damages claims portal, contact our insurance lawyers.