A portal created by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and known as ‘MedCo’ would be the sole point of access for lawyers seeking medical reports on whiplash cases under Ministry of Justice (MoJ) plans.
Launching the second phase of its whiplash reforms, the MoJ also said that a compulsory accreditation scheme for experts would be introduced, but not until after the portal opened for business.
The ministry said that to achieve its objective of severing the financial links between some law firms and reporting agencies, filters would be applied to MedCo search results.
“This will preclude not such organisations from owning medical reporting organisations which would be available to source work from elsewhere”.
In a further measure aimed at tackling “fraudulent and unnecessary claims”, the government said it would implement an industry agreement on data-sharing, which will require claimant lawyers to check potential clients’ previous claims records.
The reforms would be implemented through amendments to the pre-action protocol and related civil procedure rules.
In the consultation, the MoJ described MedCo as “a new independent IT hub”, and said the name was simply a “working title”.
The paper explained that there was “no government funding available” to cover the start-up costs of the system, but the ABI had agreed to fund and build it.
However, the MoJ said that it was working with representatives across the industry to develop an “independent governance system” both for the portal and the accreditation scheme.
All current experts will be able to register with MedCo initially. They will then be given an as-yet unspecified period of time in which to gain their accreditation. They will also be subject to monitoring and peer review through management information, spot checks and user feedback.
Lord Faulks, justice minister, said: “Our reforms will create an improved, robust system for medical evidence – so genuine whiplash claims can still be settled but 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.”
The MoJ said proposals from the first phase of its reforms, including limiting fees for whiplash medical reports to £180, would come into force on 1 October.
This would be combined with new court rules to discourage pre-medical offers, limit evidence to a single expert in most cases and prevent the reporting expert from being the doctor who treated the victim.
The issue of whiplash reform will be discussed at the PI Futures Conference in Manchester on 16 September.
There will be filters applied to the MedCo search results to ensure the medical expert or reporting organisation does not have a direct financial link with the commissioning organisation. This will not preclude such organisations from owning medical reporting organisations, which would be available to source work from elsewhere.