The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced that they are to begin the process of forming medical panels to assess the validity of whiplash injury claims, as they look to toughen their stance on fraudulent claims.
A working group will begin the process of creating these panels next month and will be made up of representatives of claimant and defendant lawyers, as well as the insurers.
In other good news for the personal injury industry it has also been confirmed that the limitation period for whiplash claims will not be altered, as the MoJ revealed that there were no prospects for such a change moving forward, although the future of the small claims limit will still be under consideration.
The introduction of the medical panels will be viewed as a massive positive by the personal injury sector as it will almost certainly bring an end to the insurance industry practice of making settlement offers before retrieving any medical evidence (also known as pre-medical offers).
This was something, that in his response on the whiplash reforms last year, the Justice Secretary, Chris Graying, insisted he wanted to bring to an end to.
Scott Rees & Co Partner, David Byrne, who is also the co-ordinator for the Merseyside branch of the MASS, welcomed the news, saying: “Pre-medical settlements have for a long time been one of the key reasons why fraudulent claims have been able to slip through the net. It is good to see the government finally taking notice of what we have been telling them for years. It is just a shame that it took so long.
“The introduction of these panels will not only help with the fight against fraudulent claims but it will also allow genuine injury victims the opportunity to claim the compensation they deserve for their injuries, rather than being pressured to settle early on for far less by the insurers.”
The government will now need to publish a full impact assessment, as well as consult with the relevant bodies, before the medical panels can be launched, and it is thought that the new medical panels could be formed and in place by the autumn.
The Justice Secretary will also be looking to press the insurers into sharing more data on suspects of fraudulent or exaggerated claims with claimant lawyers and encourage the personal injury sector to carry out more thorough checks to catch potential offenders out earlier.