Justice secretary Chris Grayling has told insurers to stop making pre-med offers once a new accreditation system for whiplash doctors is introduced.
Grayling today confirmed that the MedCo system, which will randomly allocate medical experts to claims and remove any links between experts and law firms, will come into effect from 1 April 2015.
All doctors will be placed on the system automatically and will complete accreditation by January 2016.
Grayling told the Association of British Insurers conference he expects premiums to be reduced and for insurers to use MedCo rather than settle claims without any examination – a process known as third-party capture.
‘Unless there is a very good reason to do so I would hope you would use MedCo as a routine and not simply accept claims,’ he said.
‘It will make very little sense to accept a claim which has not been appraised by a MedCo medical specialist. We have all seen cases of people being bombarded by people who would wish them to pursue claims. If you don’t challenge those cases they will try it on and there is no tangible disincentive to do that.’
Grayling said the government is also creating a task force to report back on how to reduce fraud across all types of insurance. This will feature meetings with all sectors of the industry and will produce an interim report in March.
The taskforce will look at the perception among consumers that insurance fraud is ‘fair game’ and a legitimate way to make extra money, as well as identify practices that ‘fail to deter’ fraud. He also pledged to strengthen the current legal framework for dealing with fraud.
The justice secretary said he was ‘perfectly happy’ to consider further reforms to reduce whiplash claims if they were necessary, although he cautioned against imposing too many changes at once.
Grayling was pressed by audience members to create new rules limiting claims to collisions above prescribed speed limits, but he reiterated that the MedCo system would be tested before that was considered.
On data sharing between insurers and claimant solicitors, Graying said a new system for passing on details of potential fraudsters would help to cut claims, although he admitted the arrangement ‘doesn’t have legal force’ to compel insurers to share data.
But the government’s expectation that premiums will reduce next year already appears to be difficult to achieve. A poll of delegates found 82% of insurers expect the costs of motor premiums to rise next year without further reform.
David Fisher, claims manager, AXA UK, commented later: ‘It is welcome news that from April 2015 medical assessments, through the MedCo process, will be randomised. The reports will be fair, independent and transparent and there will be an accreditation standard that medical experts will have to meet.
He added: ‘The whiplash taskforce, announced today, is a step in the right direction too. The advisory panel can help to drive genuine reform of the whiplash claims process. However, the taskforce must have direction and be given the backing of both the Treasury and Ministry of Justice to make bold recommendations.’