Litigants in person will be accommodated into the existing system for diagnosing RTA injuries next April – but experts already in the system are not being trusted with non-whiplash cases.
The Ministry of Justice today confirmed it will extend the current MedCo system for the provision of soft-tissue injury claims to cover medical reports for all RTA-related personal injury claims under £5,000. The decision, which was widely expected, follows a consultation earlier this year.
The extension is likely to happen next April, when the Civil Liability Act comes into force. MedCo has said it will be ready to handle the expected 22,000 extra annual cases from that date.
But where claimants say they have non-whiplash injuries, these will be diagnosed by GPs and accident and emergency consultants rather than the accredited panel of physicians. The government said in its consultation response it agreed with concerns that only these doctors have a broad enough medical background to undertake initial reports for all types of injury.
Lawyers will continue to be able to obtain medical reports for their clients through the existing direct access procedure with the MedCo portal. The fixed recoverable costs regime, already in place for whiplash claims, will be extended to all other types of injury.
The MoJ said it would maintain the current level of £180 plus VAT for all medical reports, providing certainty to claimants and those providing reports. This fee cap will be reviewed following implementation of the reforms in April 2020.
Martin Heskins, MedCo’s executive chair, said the organisation had been preparing for implementation on a number of assumption which the MoJ’s response has now confirmed.
He added: ‘Consequently, preparations for MedCo’s part in these reforms are well advanced and I am confident that everything we are required to do will be successfully achieved before the April 2020 deadline.’
The government needed to address the MedCo issue because of the increased £5,000 small claims limit for all RTA claims. This prevents claimants whose damages are less than £5,000 from recovering costs and effectively leaves many of them – estimated at one-third of all claimants – running their own cases through a new portal.
Lord Keen of Elie QC, Ministry of Justice spokesperson in the Lords said: ‘Claiming for personal injury compensation should be simple, fair and proportionate. Our new system will increase the consistency and transparency of medical evidence as part of our action to bring down insurance premiums and tackle fraudulent whiplash claims.’