MedCo, the portal for medical evidence in whiplash cases, could be extended to hearing loss claims, a senior civil servant at the Ministy of Justice (MoJ) has suggested.
Richard Mason, deputy-director for civil justice at the MoJ, said although there were no plans “at the moment” to extend the scheme, it was “not beyond the bounds of possibility” that there were other areas suitable for the MedCo approach.
Mr Mason said the insurance industry was “very concerned” about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) claims, and the Civil Justice Council was expected to report to the MoJ on the issue by April next year.
The Association of British Insurers called this summer for MedCo to be extended to all low-value claims, including NIHL.
Speaking at last week’s Bond Solon expert witness conference, Mr Mason said he was recently asked if the government had confidence in MedCo. “The answer is yes,” he said. “Might it need to be changed? Possibly.”
He said that the MoJ would not have the results of its review of MedCo until the end of the year.
Mr Mason said that while officials were “grinding away” at the review, they had been “very careful” in talking to competition law experts to ensure that MedCo was not doing things which would undermine government policy on the issue.
The ministry was also waiting for the High Court’s ruling, in four to five weeks, on the judicial review of MedCo brought by Speed Medical.
Speed is challenging the MoJ’s decision that of the seven medical reporting organisations (MROs) presented to a solicitor after a search on MedCo, only one is a ‘tier 1’ provider – meaning it is a high-volume national MRO like Speed.
Earlier Mr Mason told delegates: “The thing that makes whiplash so tricky is that, as a soft tissue injury, it is so difficult to diagnose and get the prognosis right. There are a lot of people out there, beyond this building, who see whiplash as easy money.”
He said that if medical experts in whiplash cases were “tending to give much longer prognoses than colleagues”, it would be a “matter of concern” for MedCo.
Mr Mason added that the MoJ was not saying whiplash did not exist, as “that would be silly”, and it was not saying the majority of experts were no good, as “that is daft”.
Litigation Futures reported yesterday that “a number” of Tier 1 MROs were on course to be downgraded to tier 2.