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Ministry of Justice - Consultation on independence in medical reporting and expert accreditation in whiplash cases
An opportunity for experts to have a say in the continuing reform of the 'whiplash' claims industry

Since early 2014 the Ministry of Justice has been working with a number of cross industry working groups on the implementation of the Government’s whiplash reform programme. They sought stakeholder views in May on the first phase which included a number of important reforms such as

  • fixing the costs of obtaining medical reports in whiplash claims,
  • prohibiting the reporting expert from also treating the claimant
  • allowing defendants to submit their version of events to the expert.

The Ministry of Justice has continued work on the next phase of reform and on the 4th September published a further consultation document. This focuses on rule changes required to implement further reforms relating to accreditation and commissioning independent medical reports. It also covers ‘previous claims’ checks to be conducted by claimant representatives. This consultation runs for four weeks and closes on Wednesday 1 October. The responses to this consultation will be considered and further rules changes will be put to the Civil Procedure Rules Committee for implementation early in the new year.

Commentary

We have been reporting on these developments through Your Witness. Having had the first consultation rushed through, we now see, hot on its heels, a second consultation which once again is on a very short timescale. This one looks at ensuring lawyers don’t have any conflict by preventing them from owning intermediary companies that supply expert reports. It also looks at setting up a new central list of experts, and a new accreditation system, for experts reporting in whiplash cases, paid for by the experts.

We have seen many attempts over the years to come up with an accreditation system for expert witnesses. This one is no more fit for purpose than any previous effort. We have no complaint about experts being accredited by their professional regulator body as an expert, but what is in the process of forming an opinion and bearing witness to it that is susceptible to meaning accreditation? All the Ministry of Justice needs is a list of experts that claimants can instruct. If, at some point, one of those experts is found wanting, that name can be taken off the list and the Ministry of Justice concern is addressed. Such a registration system – which does not pretend to impart of itself any increase in report quality – could be quickly, cheaply and simply implemented. Setting out, for example, to replicate the General Medical Council’s revalidation procedure is unnecessary, expensive and pointless. For a Government that is dedicated to cutting red-tape creating more should be a non-starter!

How to contribute

Carried out: September 2014

 
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