Lawyers and medical experts have hit back at Jack Straw over comments he made yesterday while seeking to persuade MPs to criminalise PI referral fees.

The former justice secretary introduced a ten-minute rule bill outlining proposals to make offering referral fees for victims’ details a criminal offence and ensure ‘objective evidence’ is required to prove an injury has been suffered.

He claimed that whiplash injuries were a ‘profitable invention of the human imagination’ and said personal injury claims going through the RTA portal should cost solicitors no more than £100 to facilitate.

The bill includes clauses that would:

  • make it a criminal offence to solicit, offer, or pay a referral fee for RTAs;
  • restrict whiplash claims to cases where there is genuine evidence of injury; and
  • halve the claimant lawyer’s fee for cases in the RTA portal (as the portal only costs £100 for the claimant lawyer to operate).

Straw also said insurers should not be able to isolate the level of risk around PI to a postcode and called for proceedings under the new Bribery Act 2010 to be instituted for the worst offenders.

The second reading date for the bill is 20 January 2012.

Straw said his proposals would benefit Britain’s motorists by reducing the cost of insurance premiums.

But the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers said Straw is ‘deluded’ to think a lawyer can give advice to an injured person for no more than £100.

Deborah Evans, chief executive of APIL, said: ‘In all cases the solicitor needs to talk to the client to understand the symptoms, and the impact of the injury on the client’s life, as well as obtaining a medical report.

‘These were the factors taken into account when fixed costs for road traffic accidents were agreed with the insurance industry only last year.’

There was also criticism of Straw’s assertion that whiplash injuries were delivered by ‘third-rate doctors, in the pay of claims management companies or personal injury lawyers’.

Dr Simon Margolis, chief executive of Premex Group, which manages a panel of 4,500 medical experts, argued that Straw had given an unfair generalisation of practitioners who represent both claimant and defendant sides in personal injury disputes.

‘Medical reporting agencies such as ourselves have introduced an unbiased, professional approach to the delivery of medical evidence in the personal injury process,’ he said.