A group of seven personal injury firms, including Express Solicitors and Quindell Legal Services and joined by the QualitySolicitors network, is preparing a judicial review to challenge the government’s overhaul of medical reporting in whiplash cases, it has emerged.
The other firms involved are JMW, Jefferies Solicitors, Winn Solicitors, Savas and Savage Solicitors, and Thorneycroft Solicitors. Five medical reporting agencies are also backing the judicial review.
Mark Jones, partner at JMW and the lawyer acting for the group, said today there were concerns that the plans would “ultimately result in people pursuing any personal injury action being denied justice”.
He went on: “There is no reason to think that these changes would not just affect whiplash cases but would subsequently be applied to all personal injury and other civil claims. That is a prospect which simply needs to be challenged.”
Mr Jones also described ministers’ use of a randomly-allocated panel of experts as “irrational and anti-competitive”.
He argued: “On the one hand, government has been telling us that it wants to support entrepreneurial business and yet, at the same time, it would be preventing many law firms and medical agencies from conducting and expanding their current enterprises which could lead to serious adverse consequences, including selling or closing parts of their operations and making staff redundant.
“We feel that this is one of a number of points which show the reforms to be ill-conceived and underlines why we believe they should be challenged in the courts.”
Mr Jones said the government’s desire to clamp down on the number of fraudulent claims should not be at the cost of the legitimate claimant. He said the proposed changes amounted to “a quantum leap by the government” and an attack on justice.
“We would move from an adversarial system to a more inquisitorial one and reduce the process of making a claim to a form-filling exercise.
“It could prevent more than 900,000 people forced to make legitimate whiplash claims each year full access to justice.
“It cannot be right that a claimant is refused the right to carefully select a properly qualified and accredited expert and is told instead they must choose someone from a more limited list made available to them.”
Mr Jones added the move infringed accident victims’ human rights, in that it impeded their ability to prepare claims.
He called on other personal injury lawyers, either as individual firms or through representative bodies such as the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), the Law Society and the Personal Injury Bar Association, to join the campaign to halt the reforms.