On 4th September 2014 the government set out its latest proposals in the move against whiplash compensation fraud. The Ministry of Justice Consultation, ‘Whiplash reform programme: Consultation in medical reporting and expert accreditation’ began on 4th September 2014 and will end on 1st October 2014. It is intended that the rules will come into force early next year.
Please also see the blog of Nicola Phillipson ‘Whiplash Reform Implementation Programme – Update’, dated 5th September 2014.
3 major reforms are suggested:
- Claimant lawyers are to carry out searches on any potential client;
- An independent IT hub will allocate medical experts to claims;
- A mandatory accreditation scheme for experts.
- Searches by claimant lawyers
The Ministry of Justice propose a mandatory system which will prevent a whiplash claim from being started under the pre-action protocol unless claimant lawyers have carried out a search on potential claimants’ recent claims history. It is suggested that this “will enable claimant representatives to tackle the issue of fraudulent or unnecessary claims at the source.”
An IT interface will be introduced which will enable claimant lawyers to find information on the number of whiplash claims made by a potential client in the last 5 years. A record will also be kept of the searches undertaken and whether there have been multiple searches by different legal representatives in relation to the same individual; this may assist in detecting wider scale fraud.
It is proposed that there will be an amendment to the pre-action protocol for low value personal injury claims which will require the claimant representatives to enter a reference number, generated by the search, into the Claim Notification Form.
- Independent IT hub to allocate medical experts – ‘MedCo’.
It is proposed that there will be a new independent IT hub to allocate medical experts to claims to ensure independence. The system will have checks to ensure that the medical expert/organisation does not have a direct financial link to the party commissioning the report. The proposed name of the IT hub is ‘MedCo’.
The commissioning party will log on to MedCo and will receive a list of appropriate medical experts/medical reporting organisations from which the medical report can be obtained.
The CPR and pre-action protocol will be amended so that anyone wishing to obtain a medical report in support of a whiplash claim will have to do so via MedCo.
- Mandatory accreditation scheme for experts.
It is suggested that the IT hub will operate a mandatory accreditation scheme for experts. Requirements for accreditation “will include a peer review and accredited experts who do not meet appropriate standards will face sanctions such as the removal of, or restrictions applied to, their accreditation.”
In the consultation it is anticipated that all current experts will be initially added to the system and given a timeframe to gain their accreditation. Any expert who does not complete their accreditation within the timeframe will be removed from the system. The timeframe has not yet been determined.
The pre-action protocol will be amended accordingly.
It is hoped that these proposed reforms will reduce whiplash compensation fraud and the money saved will be passed onto the public.
Craig Budsworth, chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society, said the government has shifted the balance of justice in favour of defendants and the benefit must now be felt by the public, “the government must demand that consumers see the full benefits of these reforms in reduced motor insurance premiums.”