The Ministry of Justice today asked for views on how best to create a lawyer-free system for handling low-level RTA claims.

The department issued a consultation, lasting four weeks, for designing a new IT platform to enable unrepresented litigants to progress their own claim.

The Civil Liability Act has significantly reduced damages levels for RTA claims and, as of next April, will be enforced along with a new £5,000 small claims limit for soft tissue injuries. This will mean legal costs for any claim within this category will not be recoverable – effectively removing lawyers from the process.

Working alongside the Motor Insurance Bureau, with the project therefore funded by insurers, the government has spent the last six months developing the portal to ensure it can be tested by this October and will go live from April.

The new consultation will ask for views on:

  • Expanding MedCo’s remit to cover initial medical reports for all RTA related personal injury claims under £5,000
  • Whether to widen the type of medical expert who can be registered on the MedCo system
  • Whether to extend the existing fixed cost medical report regime for medical reports
  • The procedure for unrepresented claimants to obtain medical evidence.

The MoJ says it is interested in hearing from the medical reporting sector as well as from claimant lawyers, defendant lawyers and any other interested parties.

Currently, a claimant making a soft tissue injury claim is required to obtain a medical report through MedCo, the body established in 2015 to accredit and regulate medics diagnosing whiplash cases.

In practice this comes through the claimant’s lawyer taking the steps through the MedCo search function. This system will continue for claimant with legal representation, with the new solution for unrepresented claimants integrated into the existing platform.

The MoJ estimates that 5% of claims in the new small claims track will not be within MedCo’s current remit, hence the discussion around extending the system. Additional experts that might be needed include ear nose and throat specialists, dentists and psychologists.

The government is considering whether to retain the same fixed recoverable cost of £180 for each report, although it is acknowledged this rate would make the work uneconomical for some experts.

Martin Heskins, executive chair of the MedCo board, says the organisation welcomes the opportunity to be consulted on these important issues.

'Since the beginning of 2019 we have been considering various options for the future of medical reporting that will provide a simple and efficient service for unrepresented claimants and puts all claimants at the heart of the process,' he said. 'Our main aim is to ensure that all claimants are provided with a medical reporting service of the highest quality.'