Medical reports for low-value road traffic claims should be free to all injured people regardless of whether liability is admitted, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has said.
At the current time, those who sustain a soft tissue injury in a road traffic accident where the claim is worth up to £25,000 are required to obtain a fixed cost medical report dealing with their injures from an accredited medical expert selected via the Medco Portal. The fixed cost of the first report from a General Practitioner is £180. The solicitor instructed by the injured person obtains this report, which is used to value their injuries , and upon successful conclusion of the claim, the solicitor pays the medical expert their fixed fee.
However, as part of the whiplash reform changes due to be implemented in April 2020, the small claims track limit for road traffic related personal injury claims will be increased to £5000. This means that solicitors will not be entitled to payment of their costs so that, in practice, those injured will be left to deal with their compensation claim themselves or simply not seek compensation at all, which hardly seems fair to the innocent victim of a road traffic accident. In addition, a tariff for fixed and much reduced compensation for such claims is also planned. The figures proposed are as follows:-
0-3 months injury duration £225; 4-6 months injury duration £450; 7-9 months injury duration £765; 10-12 months injury duration £1190; 13-15 months injury duration £1820; 16 -18 months injury duration £2660 and 19-24 months injury duration £3725
The Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) plans are for the wrongdoer to pay the upfront cost of the medical report but only when liability is admitted fully or partially. Therefore, if the insurer acting for the person responsible for the accident denies liability for the accident, the injured party would need to find £180 for the medical report to take the claim any further. Many people do not have the means to pay £180 upfront and may be deterred from pursuing the claim when faced with an experienced defendant insurer/solicitor arguing against them. In cases where the whiplash injury only lasts 3 months the injured party may simply feel that such an outlay is not worth it for the fixed fee compensation of £225.
The MOJ recently conducted a short consultation seeking views on extending and expanding Medco’s remit, especially considering how unrepresented claimants will obtain a medical report. However, Medco has already made it clear that its members need at least 12 months to prepare fully for the post reform work including the implementation of the portal in April 2020.
Whilst it is not unreasonable to make it compulsory for injured people to obtain a medical report when making a claim for minor road traffic injuries, as this would stop the practice of insurers from making pre-medical offers, there is still a long way to go in terms of establishing a system that is ‘user friendly’ for unrepresented claimants.