The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has promised to roll out “a robust accreditation process” for medical experts in whiplash cases by the end of the year.
Justice minister Lord Faulks said that banning law firms from owning medical reporting agencies would also be included in this “second tranche” of reforms.
In a letter attached to this week’s announcement by justice secretary Chris Grayling on new court rules for whiplash cases from 1 October, Lord Faulks said: “The MoJ will work with industry experts to support the development of a new system through which medical reports will be obtained using a system of random allocation.
“Linked to this will be a new accreditation (and re-accreditation) scheme for experts, which will include a peer review and auditing element to identify sub-standard reporting.
“Accredited experts who do not meet appropriate standards will face sanctions such as the removal of, or restrictions applied to, their accreditation.”
Lord Faulks said it was the ministry’s “strong view” that the accreditation scheme should be “owned and established” by the industry.
He said that “those operating in the personal injury sector” should provide “a suitable initial funding solution” until the scheme became self-financing through accreditation fees.
At the same time, the justice minister said the ministry would “consider the best way” to ensure that neither party in the litigation “had a financial interest in an intermediary through which a medical report is obtained”.
He said these plans would be developed “in tandem” with the accreditation scheme.
The letter emphasised that a secondary medical report, if justified, should only be commissioned on the recommendation of the expert completing the initial report. Fixed costs will apply where secondary reports are provided by orthopaedic consultants (£420), accident and emergency consultants (£360) and GPs/physiotherapists (£180).
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) expressed its disappointment that both the justice secretary and the justice minister shied away from a ban on ‘pre-med’ offers.
Lord Faulks said only that the rules were being amended to “strongly discourage this practice” and the MoJ intended to “continue to work with the industry on further ways to tackle this issue effectively”.
John Spencer, president of APIL, said pre-med offers only ever provided a “short-term cost benefit”, while opening the door to “longer term problems of fraud”.
Mr Spencer went on: “Thorough medical evidence should identify fraudulent and exaggerated claims and ensure that genuine people are given the correct amount of compensation for their injuries.
“Pre-medical offers should be banned and the government has missed an opportunity to ensure all fraudulent claims are challenged.”