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Finding the balance — what to bear in mind when considering whether to make an admission in the RTA portal

The MoJ portal for low value RTA claims was introduced with a view to streamlining low value claims and reducing the costs involved.

The MoJ portal for low value RTA claims was introduced with a view to streamlining low value claims and reducing the costs involved. Clearly, such a reduction in costs is an attractive proposition to insurers and self insured’s. However, as we all know, the quid pro quo for a reduction in costs is that, for a matter to remain in the portal, an early admission of liability must be made.

In most cases the liability issues will be clear.  Either liability can be admitted, in which case the case continues in the portal, or denied, in which case it drops out.

However, difficulties can arise where primary liability appears to rest with the defendant but there is an issue as to contributory negligence. Only arguments in relation to the wearing of a seatbelt are allowed to continue under the portal. Alternatively, it may be the case where there seems to be a liability argument but there are concerns over the strength of those arguments.

In view of the costs savings, there may be a temptation to admit liability in full. The matter is likely then to remain in the portal as opposed to falling out and attracting further costs.

However, that may not be the end of the story. What happens if a claim is submitted through the portal, an admission of liability is made (despite there being a possible liability/contributory negligence argument), and the claimant’s solicitors then reveal their client has suffered a head injury.  The claim suddenly becomes more significant in relation to quantum than first thought. The claimant has their liability admission but the claim will exit the portal and you no longer have the benefit of your costs saving.

Admissions of liability, whether made under the portal or otherwise, are binding. Resiling from an admission of liability can only be achieved in limited circumstances. The practice direction to CPR Part 8 (8B) states that an admission made during the RTA protocol process is an admission for the purposes of CPR 14. CPR 14.1, in turn, provides that an admission can only be withdrawn with the court’s permission, or with the consent of all the parties (which, frankly, you are unlikely to get).

Therefore, should you wish to resile from an admission of liability, this can only be applied for once proceedings have been issued. Let’s not forget the rather extensive criterion in the CPR to be satisfied before the court will make an order permitting the resiling from the admission (which is not easily satisfied). 

We would therefore advise that when considering whether to make an admission under the RTA protocol you consider the extent of the claimant’s injuries carefully. Is the case going to remain in the portal or is there a risk that its value may take it outside the process in the future? Whilst the claimant’s solicitors may not have actually confirmed the claimant has suffered a head injury (whether minor or otherwise), is there any mention of bruising/a blow to the head or headaches? Is there any indication that the claimant is absent from work and, if so, how long have they been absent?

It may also be worthwhile speaking to your insured driver to find out whether they thought that the claimant had suffered a more serious injury than the claims notification form indicates.

The decision as to whether to admit liability within the portal is a finely balanced one. On the one hand, you have the costs savings that the portal can provide but, on the other, there is the risk that you may end up admitting liability in a claim worth much more than the portal limit. If that is the case, the fact that the case was not suitable for the portal does not make the admission any less binding. This must be kept in mind and each case must be considered on a case by case basis.

For further guidance on the RTA portal and admissions of liability, contact our motor insurance lawyers.

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