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Lack of clarity in government response to its consultation on the provision of medical reports

9 September 2019

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There is insufficient clarity in the government’s response to its consultation on the future provision of medical reports in road traffic accident (RTA) related claims, according to Gordon Dalyell, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

The response from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will form part of a number of changes to support the increase to the small claims track limit (SCT) for RTA-related personal injury claims next April.

Key measures announced in the response include extending the MedCo system to cover the provision of initial medical reports for all RTA-related personal injury claims under £5,000. However, calls to reduce the current level of £180 plus VAT for initial soft tissue reports was rejected.

Dalyell said that at a time when people are looking for answers on how the new small claims system will work, this report fails to provide clarity.

He added: “The government needs to address the substantial financial barrier injured people will face if they must pay £180 up front for their medical reports when liability is denied.

"Not everyone can afford this. It would be very easy for insurers to play the game of denying liability in the knowledge that it will put genuine injured people off taking the claim further simply because they can’t afford the medical report.”

In its report the MoJ said, however: “We are not persuaded by either the views presented or the data submitted by stakeholders that it would be inappropriate to maintain the current level of £180 plus VAT for initial soft tissue reports.

"These decisions will provide certainty to both claimants and to those providing reports as to the cost of obtaining medical evidence in support of a claim.

"We will however, continue to monitor this issue with a view to reviewing this at an appropriate point following the implementation of the reforms in April 2020.”

The government’s plans also include limiting the provision of initial medical reports for non-soft tissue personal injury claims – whether or not accompanied by a soft tissue injury – to general practitioners (GPs) and accident and emergency (A&E) consultants only.

In knocking back calls to add specialists to the MedCo process for the purpose of providing initial medical reports, the MoJ said: “It is clear that although a case can be made for allowing some specialists such as psychologists and dentists, identifying the need for such a report could be difficult for unrepresented claimants and the number of claims where it would be clear from the outset that such reports would be required are likely to be very few in number.

"On balance this would not be helpful, and the additional cost of obtaining both an initial and a secondary expert report outweighs the potential for confusion and incorrect selection of experts.”

New qualifying criteria (QC) on customer care, standard service level agreements (SLAs) and accessible information for claimants will be developed by MoJ officials in conjunction with MedCo, to be applied to and used by medical reporting organisations and direct medical experts providing services to unrepresented claimants through the MedCo process.

Legal representatives will continue to be able to obtain medical reports for their clients via the existing direct access procedure with the MedCo portal.

A new web service is also being developed through which all lower value RTA claims will be processed.

MedCo’s executive chair, Martin Heskins commented: “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.”

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Personal injury Funding & Costs