Your Choice Of Medical Expert Threatened
Under amendments to be made to the Pre Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in the Road Traffic Accident Protocol a Claimant will no longer have free reign to instruct any expert they wish, to prepare medical evidence in support of their claim.
The amendments, due to come into force on 6 April 2015 require medical experts and medical reporting agencies to be registered with MedCo, in order to provide medico legal reports for road traffic accident soft tissue injury claims.
MedCo Register Solutions ("MedCo") is a "not for profit" company, set up by the Ministry of Justice to operate the system.
As from 6 April 2015 a Claimant with a soft tissue injury, sustained in a road traffic accident, will need to search the MedCo Portal for individual experts or medical reporting organisation. They will receive a number of randomly generated results from which to choose. It appears that the choice will be based on the postcode for the Claimant.
We are told that the reason for random selection is to prevent the potential for conflict of interest arising between those commissioning the report and those providing it.
In addition, for those experts and medical reporting agencies who want to register, there will be an accreditation requirement.
The aim of the Ministry of Justice, in introducing the Register, is to:-
(a) reduce fraudulent claims
(b) help improve the quality of the medical evidence
(c ) drive up standards.
However the expert, who is likely to be a GP, will only be able to charge a fee of £180 for each report. In addition, the expert is not required to consider the medical records, or a witness statement of the Claimant, unless he expressly wishes to do so. Therefore the quality of reporting is likely to be questioned by Claimants and Defendants.
The implementation of the changes may well be challenged, by way of judicial review. There are a number of factors that need to be considered, to include:-
(a) the fact that the introduction of the Register is unlikely to reduce fraud – the primary objective of the Ministry of Justice
(b) the fact that Claimants will be denied the opportunity to instruct an expert of their choice, but will be reliant of the search throwing up an expert acceptable to them.
(c ) the fact that it will prevent ABS agreements being set up between law firms and medical agencies, and goes against the suggestion that the Government wants to support entrepreneurial businesses
(d) the fact that, ultimately, people pursuing personal injury claims could be denied justice.