The Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling has laid out his proposals for new court rules which will seek to bring an end to pre-medical offers being made to whiplash injury victims.
His announcement is good news for the personal injury profession and the continuing fight to bring down the number of fraudulent claims being processed within the industry, for which pre-med offers are deemed to be a large contributor.
Also among the proposals will be a GP fee cut to £180 for whiplash claims, which is £20 less than the current amount allowed by the Association of Medical Reporting Organisation’s agreement and is aimed at limiting the scope of medical evidence for whiplash claims.
All of the new court rules are expected to be implemented in October and along with the fee cut and discouraging of pre-med offers there will also be a rule introduced that will see an expectation that medical evidence in the case of a whiplash claim will now be limited to just once report, unless a clear case is made otherwise.
The experts who produce the reports will also no longer be allowed to offer treatment to the victims, which are designed to cut out the incentive to encourage unnecessary treatment on the back of an accident to make profit.
Speaking about his proposals, Chris Grayling said: “We are determined to have an improved, robust system for medical evidence, so genuine claims can still be settled by fraud is driven out of the market.”
Talking about the move to discourage pre-med offers, Scott Rees & Co Partner, David Byrne, said: “This is a positive step for whiplash victims and for the profession on a whole as it will go a long way to tackling the problem of fraudulent claims within the industry.”
“However, I can’t help that the Justice Minister has missed an opportunity to clean up the industry once and for all by introducing a ban across the board on the ability to make compensation offers to accident victims before a medical report has been obtained.”
“Past research has proven that in many cases where accident victims are pressured into accepting these settlement offers by insurers, they actually receive four times less than the compensation they are entitled to, which for those who are genuinely injured is completely unfair and unjust.”
“The Government has been making all the right noises in terms of tackling fraud within the profession, which makes it difficult to see why, when they find a practice that is clearly having an adverse effect on the industry, they don’t do more than to just ‘discourage’ it.”
Meanwhile, in a letter attached to the Justice Minister’s announcement, Lord Faulks reaffirmed the government’s commitment to their proposed ban on law firms owning medical reporting agencies, despite the fact the MoJ were forced to defend their reasons for missing their own deadline to provide a response to the latest whiplash claims announcement.
Responding to Lord Faulks comments, Byrne added: “This is a further example of unbalance in the government’s decision making which makes it difficult to believe we are all heading in the same direction.”
“The government are ‘fully committed’ to a ban on law firms owning medical reporting agencies, yet are only committed to discouraging pre-medical offers. Out of the two it is clear that the pre-med offers have the biggest impact when it comes to fraud and worse still it penalises genuine victim.”
“It is not difficult to see why there is friction in terms of the Government’s relationship with those who are backing them financially and their decision making policy when it comes to tough subjects such as whiplash reform.”
The original proposals for further whiplash reform were released at the beginning of May and due for response last week, before the parliament rose for summer recess. They re expected to be implemented before the end of the year.