There should be a complete ban on pre-medical offers, claimant representatives have argued in responses to the government’s call for evidence on the MedCo portal, while insurers called for the regulation of medical reporting organisations (MROs).
But the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence, part of the review of MedCo announced in July, which ended earlier this month, saw agreement on the need for changes to prevent the skewing of allocations of experts offered by MedCo to instructing parties, brought about by some large MROs registering multiple smaller companies.
Responding to the ministry’s call, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) observed that the audit and accreditation of MROs should have occurred before MedCo went live in April.
It argued that:
- The definition of a “national” – that is, tier 1 – MRO should mean that it should not just cover sufficient postcodes, but that it should also be able to provide a medical report within 25 miles of the client within four weeks of the instruction;
- An algorithm should be used in MedCo’s random selection of experts which “links the ratio of tier one and tier two MROs/experts offered for selection with the total number of tier one and tier two experts registered”. This would prevent market skew; and
- Each expert selected should be accompanied by “an indication of quality and client care” offered.
APIL said there were insurers that still made offers to settle without a medical report, a practice that was “grossly unjust to the claimant” and should be subject to a “complete ban”.
In its submission to the MoJ, law firm Thompsons Solicitors, which said it spent over £15m on 20,000 medical reports in the year to July 2015, including those in relation to RTA cases, agreed with APIL on the ban, saying: “If the government is really interested in refining a system to the benefit of the consumer – the claimant – not the corporate entities in the market, it should outlaw pre-medical offers with immediate effect. Instead the consultation paper talks merely of ‘discouraging pre-medical offers to settle’.”
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) argued that MROs should be subject to independent regulation, because MedCo was ill-equipped for the role and was currently being forced to act as a “pseudo regulator”.
It continued: “The dysfunctional behaviour witnessed has almost exclusively emanated from MROs in their attempts to undermine the system of random allocation for their own commercial gain.”
The ABI said the statement of financial links made by registering MROs should be widened to prevent connected businesses from appearing in random allocations of experts. But there should be no adjustment to the existing formula for ‘offers’ by MedCo at this point, until the question of multiple registrations was resolved.
Litigation Futures revealed recently that MedCo had started to sanction some MROs for breaches of registration conditions.