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Government response to the Future Provision of Medical Reports in RTA related personal injury claims consultation

September, 9, 2019

Government response to the Future Provision of Medical Reports In Road Traffic Accident related personal injury claims consultation

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) held a four-week consultation relating to the provision of medical evidence when the increase in the small claims track limit for road traffic accident (RTA) related personal injury claims increases to £5,000 (targeted for April 2020). In the light of the responses received, this paper set out the government’s proposals.

The provision of medical reports for unrepresented claimants

The Government proposes to extend the existing MedCo system to cover all RTA PI claims under £5,000. It is felt that this option will provide consistency for obtaining medical evidence in support of all claims of this nature irrespective of whether the claimant has legal representation. This decision will be taken forward and implemented as part of the ongoing work to draft revised Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and a new pre-action protocol to support RTA related personal injury claims in the small claims track.

Additionally, for claims where there is a non-soft tissue injury (whether or not accompanied by a soft tissue injury) reports will continue to be provided by GPs/A&E consultants only but these experts will be able to recommend that further, specialist evidence is obtained.

Should other types of medical expert be added to those currently able to report?

 The Government will not be adding additional specialists to the MedCo process for the purpose of providing initial medical reports. Although it was clear from some responses that a case could 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. Moreover, identifying, recruiting and accrediting sufficient specialists would be time consuming and unlikely to be a cost-effective exercise at this stage.

However, the Government will keep under review the possible addition of such experts to Medco, in the future, for the purpose of sourcing additional recommended reports.

Should certain categories of non-medical experts be added to those currently able to report?

The Government has not been persuaded that there is a strong consumer benefit to amending the system and so does not propose to make any further changes to extend the current regime to alternative practitioners (including osteopaths and chiropractors) at this time.

The fixed recoverable cost (FRC) of reports.

The current fixed fee regime will be extended to cover all initial reports in small claims track cases at the existing recoverable fee of £180 + VAT. This will  include the provision of initial medical reports for non-soft tissue injury in RTA claims up to £5,000. There are no changes to other expert report fixed fees. This will provide certainty as to the cost of obtaining medical evidence in support of a claim to both claimants and to those providing reports.

The situation will be monitored with a view to reviewing it at an appropriate point following the implementation of the reforms in April 2020.

Should other changes be made to Medco because of the introduction of unrepresented claimants?

The Government will be working with MedCo to ensure that medical reporting organisations (MROs) which accept instructions from unrepresented claimants  provide appropriate support and care to them, although there will be nothing to oblige them to.  Details of the new criteria to which the MROs will be required to work will be published prior to implementation to enable stakeholders to consider whether to opt into the service in relation to unrepresented claimants.

Similarly, the MOJ will work with both the MIB and MedCo to develop the system to ensure that information is presented in an accessible way to claimants and is understandable, proportionate and helpful in enabling claimants to progress their claim.

Initial analysis of the responses showed a majority of MROs and directly instructed medical experts who responded to the consultation will be prepared to work with unrepresented claimants but the limited volume of responses received, only 27 from medical experts, MROs and medical representative groups, made it difficult to make accurate assumptions on full market capacity.

Service level agreements are to be developed to underpin the provision of reports to unrepresented claimants through MedCo. These are to be tested in the Autumn.

Other issues

The responses to the consultation threw up many other issues, some of which the Government will consider at a later date. These include looking at regulatory requirements, the process for providing rehabilitation and the future provision of specialist medical evidence.

The Government predicts that the impact on MedCo and insurers will be small – they estimate 22,000 (6%) additional non-soft tissue injury claims to deal with. They appear confident that the extended system will be ready by April 2020 and that it will cope with this increase in claims.

Comment

There are few surprises in the Government’s proposals as it was always anticipated that MedCo would be extended to cover RTA personal injury claims up to £5,000.  Nor is it surprising that the current fixed fee for the initial soft tissue injury report is being reconsidered. The MIB has confirmed that the portal is now built and that the next stage is amendments in accordance with stakeholder’ views.  The Rules now need to be drafted and the  portal tested to ensure that it offers a robust system that is intuitive and easy to use for unrepresented claimants.  There is still a lot to be done before the April 2020 proposed implementation date.

 

 

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