Not-for-profit personal injury representative body, MASS has questioned the Government’s decision to allow the ABI to fund and build their proposed portal for medical evidence in whiplash cases.
The portal which is currently known as MedCo, is set to be the sole point of access for lawyers when it comes to seeking medical reports on whiplash cases, was created by the ABI as the MoJ looks to ensure that there are no financial ties between lawyers and medical reporting agencies.
But this has attracted criticism from the Chairman of MASS, Craig Budsworth, who would like the Government to reveal what funding options were on offer alongside the ABI and why the Government had decided to allow the insurer governing body to be responsible for the portal.
He said: “Given our existing concerns that the balance of reforms has already tilted too far in favour of defendants, we will understandably have questions about how the schemes independence will be assured when its structure and operation lies in the hands of one side of the legal debate.”
MASS also raised concerns in regards to the planned accreditation scheme for the medical experts for whiplash cases. These are due to be introduced following the successful launch of the new portal.
On this, Mr Budsworth said: “We continue to be worried that the accreditation scheme has been developed too swiftly and without fully understanding the structure, rules and impact of the new scheme.”
“Rules are being drafted without full knowledge of how the whole process will look. It was MASS’s understanding that the scheme would be funded by the experts themselves through the accreditation fee, but this is yet to be clarified.”
On the decision to launch the new portal, the Justice Minister, Lord Faulks, expressed his confidence that it would be a success and heralded the reforms that had already been introduced for helping to reduce insurance premiums by driving fraud out of the profession.
He said: “Our reforms will create an improved, robust system for medical evidence – so genuine whiplash claims can still be settled by fraud is driven out of the market. We have already seen a fall in premiums paid by motorists – we are working to ensure this continues.”
But Scott Rees and Co Marketing Partner, David Byrne, has dismissed this notion and claimed that the decision to use the Medco Portal which was built and funded by the ABI, is the latest in a long line of decisions made to appease the insurance industry.
He said: “To allow the ABI to control the source of medical reports just serves to show how out of touch the MoJ truly is when it comes to whiplash claims.”
“For the past couple of years the insurance industry, led by the ABI, have lobbied against legal representation in cases of this nature and even questioned the legitimacy of whiplash injury as a real ailment together.”
“It is because of their sustained campaign to bring in reform that this new initiative has been brought in and in theory this should be a positive step for the profession.”
“But to use the ABI portal, instead of exploring realistic and more importantly, impartial options, is absurd and just goes to show the true influence the ABI and the insurance industry on a whole has on the current Government.”
It hasn’t all been bleak news though in regards to the latest raft of reforms. The MoJ have introduced compulsory checks on previous claims histories by claimant lawyers, which is to be based on data that the insurance companies now have to provide.
Craig Budsworth has welcomed the move, saying: “MASS has campaigned for compulsory data-sharing since 2012, which should have a discernible positive impact on discouraging potential fraudsters from attempting to bring forward unmeritous claims.”