Claimant solicitors are “milking the medical agency cash cow” by setting up ST0-075 their own medical reporting organisations (MROs) and charging more than the industry agreed levels, a leading defendant practitioner has claimed. 070-455
Howard Dean, director of costs at Keoghs, said defendants were now taking action in the courts to strip out what he claimed was the extra cost these MROs had introduced “with absolutely no benefit to the end consumer – but with considerable financial benefit to those that advise them”.
Mr Dean said the “peace” brought about by the 2007 MRO Agreement (MROA) – which capped medical agency fees and to which most of the industry signed up – “lasted only until new medical agencies entered the market and sought to recover fees in excess of the market caps that had been set, annually, under the agreement”.
In many cases, he said, these MROs were set up by “enterprising claimant lawyers”.
He continued: “The MROA 2012 provides for an annual review of the cap on the rates, so why haven’t
000-998 these newcomers signed up and, if they do not believe the current rates to be sufficient, why haven’t they argued for an increase in the caps – just as the agency majority did last year?
“Under the MROA, the cap on the medical agency fees for a GP report is, if paid after 90 days, £270. However, some of these solicitor-owned agencies are charging claimants as much as £450 for the same report and then seeking to recover this in the claimant’s name.
“What is even more galling is the fact that in many cases the claimant is examined by an expert who is already on the panel of a medical agency who has signed the MROA. Therefore, the £450 report that some of the new solicitor-owned agencies are now charging could have been obtained for £270 or, in some cases, even less.”
Mr Dean suggested that solicitor-owned agencies did nothing for the extra £180 and could not justify the different rate.
He said: “Compensators cannot, should not and will not accept this inequitable state of affairs and we are pursuing these issues before the courts. This is fundamentally about ensuring that the party who ends up paying these fees only pays a realistic and reasonable amount. After all, that was one of the key aims of the MROA.
“Certainly, if the claimant or their lawyers ended up paying these fees – or as Lord Justice Jackson would say, had ‘some skin in the game’ – then they wouldn’t be paying these rates. If such actions are allowed to flourish unchecked, then they will only start to threaten the mediated agreement itself.
“Is it fair or right for the many signatories to that agreement to be put at a competitive disadvantage by the few who don’t? Is it fair or right to those lawyers who do believe in the independence of medical agencies and who are accordingly not seeking to benefit from that further income stream?”