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Increased Care for Genuine Whiplash Victims

Medico Legal

Aviva’s landmark March 2015 published report “Road to Reform: Tackling the UK’s compensation culture” is a landmark publication which aims to increase support for genuine accident victims and put care for the injured party at the heart of the claims process.

 

The recommendations are about how best to compensate accident victims for their benefit as well as the insured motorist’s benefit. Aviva’s stated number one priority is to pay genuine claims quickly and fairly while offering a great service to its customers. Last year in the UK, it settled over 910,000 claims worth £2.65 billion.

Maurice Tulloch, Chairman Global General Insurance, outlines the shift to greater care in his Introduction. “It’s time to put the brake on the UK’s compensation culture: should we continue to compensate minor, short-term injuries with cash, which drives up the cost of insurance for all of us? Or should we provide care, such as rehabilitation, to those with minor whiplash, while keeping motor insurance affordable for Britain’s motorists?”

Mr Tulloch goes on to outline three key steps to deliver this ambition which will protect motorists
from escalating costs and increase support for
genuine accident victims.

“First, we must move away from a system which pays cash compensation for minor, short-term whiplash, to one that focuses on providing and helping them with the costs of medical treatment. Second, we have to restrict the use – and fees – of lawyers on cases where their involvement is simply not needed. Finally we need to bring in a comprehensive ban on all referral fees, and tackle the aggressive pursuit and marketing texts and telephone calls chasing the personal details of accident victims to sell to lawyers.

“The main reason we need these changes is to reduce the impact of minor, short-term whiplash claims. We understand that whiplash, a neck injury sustained in an accident, can cause pain and discomfort. That’s why we want to put care for the injured party at the heart of the claims process.”

Provide care not cash
In line with its major stakeholder status as an insurer, Aviva is calling or a change in legislation so that minor, short-term whiplash claims are treated with rehabilitation instead of cash compensation. Insurers would arrange and pay for the customer’s rehabilitation, regardless of fault.

It states that whiplash is the key area that continues to inflate motor insurance premiums despite the 2013 motor reforms. Whiplash costs the UK motorist around £2bn per year in insurance premiums and half of this is for minor injuries.

Aviva believes that in most instances of minor whiplash injury, a system of appropriate medical treatment or rehabilitation will be both effective for the injured parties and benefit all drivers through reducing costs.

Their report shows that 64% of consumers are in support of this method of compensation. It outlines how removing financial incentives would also greatly reduce the number of fraudulent claims, such as crash for cash. Aviva also welcomes the introduction of independent medical panels later this year.

The company believes these will help call out potential fraud and will end the practice of insurers settling a claim without medical evidence. It estimates that this important change which was brought in as part of the LASPO Act will help insurers, and ultimately policy holders, save around £70m in spurious and fraudulent claims.

Automatically compensating those with minor injuries with medical treatment rather than cash would save around £1bn each year, according to the insurer. Taking into account an estimated cost of £100m to implement a rehabilitation facility operated and paid for by insurers, this would save £900m – a premium saving of around £32 for every driver.

“Most insurers already have either a rehabilitation offer available to their customers or a health insurance arm that allows them to easily offer rehabilitation to their customers.”

Aviva’s Whiplash Treatment Scheme
Aviva has helped nearly 7,000 people recover from their injuries through its Whiplash Treatment Scheme. Originally a pilot launched in 2011, it now has facilities across the UK. It complies with the Rehabilitation Code of Conduct.

How it works:
• Applies to all not at fault unrepresented claims under £10,000.

• An Aviva handler makes an assessment in conversation with the claimant and offers rehabilitation.

• A full Immediate Needs Assessment Report is undertaken within 24 hours and the claimant has access to a web-based instruction portal. For 30% of people this addresses their needs.

• Contact with the claimant is by a trained physiotherapist with a clinical background.

• A DVD containing practical information about whiplash neck/back pain is sent to the claimant.

• Regular contact with the claimant is maintained and recovery targets set.

• More serious injuries are referred for specialist treatment

Government whiplash reform progress
Radical Ministry of Justice Reforms in terms of personal injuries are already changing the landscape of reform.

A new costs protection regime has been introduced for personal injury claims (including clinical negligence). This will provide protection limiting the costs that a claimant might have to pay to the other side. This regime is called 'qualified one way costs shifting' (QOCS). This affects the costs that a claimant might have to pay to a defendant. A losing defendant remains liable for the claimant's costs in the usual way.

And since early 2014 the Ministry of Justice has been working with a number of cross industry working groups on the implementation of whiplash reform.

Recently introduced, the second tranche of reform installs 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.

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.

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.

In putting care and rehabilitation at the heart of its procedures, both the MoJ and Aviva are converging in their thinking about the importance of robust medicolegal reporting and clinical care in personal injury case management.