The government has released proposals to cut fixed fees paid for medical reports by 10% as well as their intentions to bring to an end law firms owning the agencies that commission them.
In the next step toward cracking down on whiplash claims the proposals will now go under consultation and the government’s aim is to get the changes approved by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee in the summer, in time for them to come into force on the 6th October.
The government launched their new plans for the industry in a letter by the new Justice Minister, Lord Faulks who has taken over the responsibility from Shailesh Vara.
As part of their plans, they also provided a definition of whiplash according to the cross-industry working groups that have been advising them which states:
“A claim brought by an occupant of a motor vehicle where the significant physical injury caused is a soft tissue injury secondary in significance to the physical injury.”
This definition will not be included in the protocol for road traffic accidents and addresses claims for psychological injury at the same time.
As things currently stand it costs £200 for a GP report, whereas under the government’s latest proposals this would drop to £180. There will also be a cut of £5 to for an orthopedic surgeon’s report, but the proposal makes no mention of the cost of an A&E report, as the Association of Medical Reporting Organisations (AMRO) agreement does.
Their proposals are also committed to removing any financial link between the party commissioning the reports and any organisation through which the report has been provided. This is part of the government’s plan to remove any financial interest in the results of the report.
The letter states: “However, we want to explore the issue of independence further to ensure that reciprocal arrangements cannot be established between different commissioning firms in order to subvert this prohibition. We would be interested in views on how to achieve this.
“For example, would this prohibition be strengthened by requiring that claimant and defendant representatives may only commission a specified proportion of medical reports via any given intermediary? Or should, for example, representatives be required to commission reports on a rota basis from a variety of intermediaries?”
What will be more controversial in the eyes of the claimant is that the government are also considering whether or not to give the defendant the opportunity to submit their version of events to the medical expert where there is a material difference between the parties’ accounts.
Further to this and to discourage the claimant representatives from obtaining initial reports outside the fixed fee scheme the government is also considering allowing the defendant to make a pre-medical offer, despite their pledge to stop such a practice.
Lord Faulk’s letter explained saying: “Claimant representatives have argued that the sanction in these circumstances should be only that the cost of the report is not recoverable, but defendant representatives are concerned that that is not a sufficient deterrent and that, in addition, a pre-medical offer should be permitted in these exceptional circumstances.”
The consultation on these proposals will now be opened up to all parties to put forward their opinions before a decision is taken this summer on whether to move forward with them.
1. Pexels; Paweł Kadysz; https://www.pexels.com/photo/office-mail-business-work-8777/