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Friday 29 April 2022
Delivering a more efficient, fast and accessible service are the key drivers behind the court’s introduction of the Damages Claims Portal (DCP), which forms part of HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) goal to provide an integrated online digital service for resolving civil claims.
The aim of the DCP is to provide an end-to-end service from pre-action to enforcement, increasing efficiency and reducing claim processing times. However, it is too early to predict how the DCP will respond to technical challenges and what this will mean for councils and their response to claims.
While we welcome the move to try to improve efficiencies in the civil justice process, the system is immature, and the pace of change is a cause for concern. On 4 April 2022, the DCP became mandatory for all claimant legal representatives to register claims in certain instances (see more below), and the DCP will become mandatory for defendant legal representatives from 2 June 2022.
All parties must become familiar with the new arrangements now to avoid procedural sanctions.
The DCP is an online claims process to issue and serve proceedings, acknowledge a claim, file a defence and file directions questionnaires. Cases are then managed in the usual way under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998. The aim is for the whole claim to be run within the DCP eventually.
The DCP applies to all damages only claims but is only available to legal representatives currently.
On 4 April 2022, the DCP became mandatory for all claimant legal representatives when dealing with claims which traditionally follow the Part 7 process in the county court, provided that:
The DCP is a self-service system, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so claims can be issued at any time on any day. Deadlines for acknowledgment of service and filing a defence remain 4pm on the relevant day.
The system provides online notifications which constitutes service. As such failure to notify the defendant within the four-month time limit results in the claim being dismissed automatically.
The court will not enter judgment for a claim not responded to in the DCP, so the claimant will need to apply for judgment. However, if a defendant fails to respond in six months and the claimant does not seek to enter judgment, the claim will be automatically dismissed.
Should parties not wish to instruct solicitors to accept service, they can request the claimant’s solicitor serve proceedings directly against the insurer or defendant. Such cases will still be issued via the DCP but then fall out to be served in the traditional way.
In light of the new rules, councils should consider: