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MPs call for caution on medical panels for whiplash cases

Houses of Parliament [1]

MPs said the government should consult with “all interested parties”

MPs on the transport select committee have called for caution in the introduction of independent medical panels for whiplash cases, while demanding a complete ban on pre-medical offers by insurance companies.

In its fourth report on the cost of motor insurance, published today, the committee said it welcomed the government’s “obvious desire to get on with establishing independent medical panels” but was concerned that “numerous detailed matters are being decided hastily and, in some cases, without much consideration of different options.

“We recommend that the government publish for consultation comprehensive proposals for how medical panels will work, in time for the new system to be introduced by next Easter.” The current timetable is for them to be introduced in October.

The committee said details such as the qualifications doctors needed to have in order to be accredited or how medical reports would be audited remained unclear.

MPs said they strongly agreed with the MoJ’s announcement that pre-medical offers by insurance companies would be restricted, but they called for an outright ban.

“We are in no doubt that fraudulent and exaggerated claims have been encouraged by the insurers’ practice of paying out for whiplash claims without requiring a medical examination”.

The committee said that although the government had recently restated its “intention generally to prohibit pre-medical offers”, it was consulting on whether they should be allowed where a claimant had obtained their own report outside the system of independent panels.

The MoJ’s consultation on medical reports for whiplash claims, which also proposed a 10% cut in fixed fees, was published in May [2].

“It is unfortunate that the ABI should argue that action to tackle fraudulent and exaggerated claims, by insisting on medical examinations, will increase premiums,” the MPs said.

“We would have hoped for a firmer commitment from the industry to driving out fraud. In our view, money saved from reducing fraudulent and exaggerated claims should more than compensate for any extra costs resulting from more stringent requirements for dealing with whiplash claims.”

As we report on Legal Futures [3], the report also called for the Solicitors Regulation Authority o crack down on law firms “playing the system” by commissioning “unnecessary” reports on psychological injuries.

The transport select committee concluded the government should engage with “all interested parties, rather than just the insurance industry”, as had been the case in the past.

“It must all make sure that its reforms lead to a sustainable reduction in motor insurance premiums, which must not be allowed to bounce back to the extraordinarily high levels of the turn of the decade.”