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Whiplash Reforms Update

Medico Legal

Since early 2014 the Ministry of Justice has been working with a number of cross industry working groups on the implementation of the Government’s whiplash reform programme.

It sought stakeholder views in May 2014 on the first phase which included a number of important reforms such as

• fixing the costs of obtaining medical reports in whiplash claims

• prohibiting the reporting expert from also treating the claimant

• allowing defendants to submit their version of events to the expert.

It continued work on the next phase of reform and on 4 September published a consultative document. This focused on rule changes required to implement further reforms relating to accreditation and commissioning independent medical reports.

It also covered ‘previous claims’ checks to be conducted by claimant representatives.

The Government response to this consultation has now been published. It provides stakeholders with nformation on these changes as well on the ‘next steps’ for implementation.

This second tranche of reform introduces a new system for obtaining initial medical reports for soft tissue injury claims brought under the RTA protocol.

From 6 April 2015, medico-legal experts and MROs will need to be registered with MedCo in order to provide initial medico-legal reports for RTA soft tissue injury claims.

Doctors must be registered with MedCo Registration Solutions in order to provide the initial fixed cost medical report in a soft tissue injury claim.

Amendments have now been agreed to the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents (the RTA Protocol) and to the Civil Procedure Rules. These amendments implement the second phase of the Government’s whiplash reform programme.

The amendments bring into force the following procedural changes:

• In respect of any Claim Notification Form sent on or after 6 April 2015, the first report in a soft tissue injury claim must be a fixed cost medical report commissioned from a medical expert or medical reporting organisation sourced via the MedCo Portal.

• In respect of any Claim Notification Form sent on or after 1 June 2015, claimants’ legal representatives must undertake ‘previous claims’ checks on potential claimants and insert the unique reference number generated by that search in the additional information box in the Claim Notification Form.

• With effect from 1 January 2016, medical experts must be accredited by MedCo Registration Solutions in order to provide the initial fixed cost medical report in a soft tissue injury claim.

Following an announcement on 7 June 2014, the Government added an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to introduce a ban on the offer of inducements in personal injury claims. A further amendment was tabled in October 2014 to prevent the inducements being offered via third parties.

This clause reflects the Government’s concern at the increase in the number of fraudulent and grossly exaggerated personal injury claims and the effect that this has on motor insurance premiums and the resources of local and public authorities and employers.

This will supplement the work being undertaken by the insurance industry to tackle fraud, through initiatives such as the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (a specialist police unit dedicated to tackling insurance fraud) and the Insurance Fraud Bureau (created in 2006 specifically to tackle organised cross-industry motor insurance scams).

The Association of British Insurers have recently published figures (not verified by Government) showing that 59,900 dishonest motor insurance claims were uncovered in 2013, an increase of 34% on 2012, with a value of £811 million (up 32% on 2012). These dishonest claims represent around 8% of all motor claims registered with the Compensation Recovery Unit in 2013. There were around 775,000 motor personal injury claims registered to the DWP Compensation Recovery Unit in 2013/14, compared to around 520,000 claims in 2006/07, representing an increase of around 50% in claims.

This increase has coincided with a 23% decrease in the number of road traffic accidents reported to the police - between 2006 and 2012 they decreased from 190,000 to 145,000, although trends in unreported accidents are unknown. ?

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