Damages Claims Portal pilot scheme: an overview

17th September 2021

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has been developing a programme of reform to modernise the court service since 2016.  This programme includes the provision of digital services to improve efficiency. The Damages Claims Portal (DCP) started its life back in 2017 as a limited pilot for the issuing of claims online, and has been developed since then to cover more of the claims process.

In a recent Keoghs legal solutions client alert we considered ways in which the current court backlog could be addressed, with the introduction of more digital solutions for claims handling.  With the DCP intended to develop into a full end-to-end digital service, from pre-action to enforcement, we consider below its role in clearing that backlog.

What type of claims can proceed via the pilot?

The DCP is a digital portal for damages claims in the county court. The pilot for the portal went live on 28 May 2021 and currently has 13 claimant law firms signed up to it (list below). It is suitable for any damages claims, not just personal injury claims, though there are some exclusions (such as claims for a specified debt or those outside the jurisdiction) which can be found within the practice direction (51ZB) here.

Claims are suitable for the pilot provided they are for damages only and would not ordinarily follow the Part 8 procedure.

The pilot is currently only suitable for claims involving single claimants and defendants, though the next release phase scheduled for October should open up the scheme to multi-party claims.

What does the pilot ‘do’ now?

A claimant firm registered for the DCP can issue proceedings via the pilot, and provided the responding defendant law firm is also registered the claim can continue in the pilot scheme until directions questionnaires, at which point the claim falls out of the pilot and continues on the usual path.

If the responding defendant law firm is not registered for the pilot the case can still be issued in the DCP, however the case would then fall out of it and proceed in the usual way.

What’s next for the pilot?

  • The next phase of the pilot is underway with invitations open to other claimant law firms to sign up from now and throughout September.
  • The next release scheduled for October will allow multi-party claims to progress through the scheme.
  • A further release is being developed to cover the ability for judgment to be entered online, the filing of general applications and the ability for judges to make standard directions orders online.
  • There is currently no API functionality within the scheme but the intention is for this to be developed in due course.
  • The long-term intention is for the portal to be a complete end-to-end service, from pre-action to enforcement.

So what’s the difference to handling claims ‘the usual way’?

The DCP is open 24/7, 7 days a week.  If the mood takes you, you can issue your claim form at 3am – though we recommend those using it try to aim for a better work/life balance!

Use of the DCP should speed up the administrative elements of pursuing a damages claim in the county courts and offers a more climate-friendly approach to claims handling with this digital service.  If successful with its aim of being a complete end-to-end service, the DCP should help to alleviate some of the current significant court backlog.

The time steps broadly follow the main Civil Procedure Rules, with two main differences:

  • Claims in the DCP must be served within 4 months of issue otherwise they will be automatically dismissed
  • If no step is taken within 6 months of notification of the particulars of claim then the claim will be dismissed, so if the defendant doesn’t file a defence the claimant will need to make an application for judgment in default or the defendant apply for additional time. If no positive action is taken the claim is dismissed
  • Extensions of time can be agreed and if so the case comes out of the pilot

Who is already signed up to the pilot?

Claimant law firms currently signed up to the DCP

  • Admiral Law
  • Bakers Solicitors
  • Charltons
  • Clarke Willmott
  • Express Solicitors
  • Hodge, Jones & Allen
  • Irwin Mitchell
  • Lyons Davidson
  • Minster Law
  • Scott Rees
  • Slater & Gordon
  • Trav Law
  • Winn Solicitors

Our legal solutions team are engaging with HMCTS regarding progress of the DCP.  We are also signing up to the pilot so that we are able to respond to any claims issued and provide both clients and HMCTS with feedback.

We will continue to keep clients updated as to developments of the pilot.  Please contact Natalie Larnder, Head of Market Affairs with any questions on NLarnder@keoghs.co.uk.

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