A leading figure in the claimant industry has warned that doctors may not want to be part of a new panel for whiplash diagnosis.
Craig Budsworth (pictured), outgoing chair of the Motor Accidents Solicitors Society, told its annual conference that some experts may opt not to sign up to the reporting organisation MedCo.
The insurance industry is funding the start-up costs for the panel and it is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2014. The running costs will then be covered by doctors’ accreditation fees.
The Association of British Insurers has confirmed the MedCo board will be led by an independent chair, with other members taken from both claimant and defendant sectors. The MedCo website is set to go online by the end of this month.
Both sides have worked together to bring the project – backed by the Ministry of Justice – forward, but Budsworth said there are still concerns about the people who will carry out the whiplash tests.
Budsworth said: ‘[Experts] are going to have to prove that they are capable of examining people with these types of injuries. This may well prove more problematic as experts may well say, “can’t you read my full title?”.
‘The years I have spent training surely prove that I know exactly what I’m talking about. Why should I pay a fee to enable me to continue to write reports when I have no idea how many instructions I am going to get?
‘If I’m going to appear on a list then I’ve nothing that will differentiate me from another expert in my area. In which case, I may never get any instructions so why should I pay a fee for the privilege of receiving no work?’
Doctors attending the conference suggested they were still unsure of the details of MedCo and how they would be assigned work.
James Dalton, head of liability for the ABI, said talks will continue over the coming months to confirm details of how the panel will work and he added ‘significant’ progress has already been made.
Dalton told the conference a lack of any objective medical test has increased whiplash cases in recent years and raised the prospects of fraudulent or exaggerated claims.
He added: ‘Developing an IT system that randomly allocates independent and accredited medical experts to claimant lawyers is critically important in working towards the delivery of fundamental reform of the medico-legal reporting system.’