Whiplash Reforms - What it means for MedCo
Published: 5 March 2021
Last week the Ministry of Justice published the long-awaited documentation to support the Whiplash reform programme of work.
Whilst you may have already seen details from commentators and in trade press this communication is intended to serve as a summary of the key changes and what it means for you as a registered MedCo user. It is also the start of a series of communications to support you in the run up to the published go live date of 31 May 2021.
What are the Whiplash Reforms?
The Whiplash reforms is a programme of work implemented by the Government to “reduce insurance costs for ordinary motorists by tackling the high number and cost of whiplash claims”. It is largely brought about by the Civil Liability Act 2018 (the Act) together with supporting Regulations, known as the Whiplash Regulations, and changes to the Civil Procedure Rules.
The key changes are;
- The Act sets out a definition of Whiplash and introduces a ban on the settlement of claims for Whiplash without medical evidence.
- The Act will also put in place a fixed tariff of damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for Whiplash injuries lasting up to 2 years in duration.
- There will be an increase in the Small Claims Limit to £5,000 which means unless the value of the claim exceeds this amount claimants will no longer be able to claim back the cost for legal advice, representation and support.
- To support the process a new Portal named Official Injury Claims has been launched that will provide unrepresented claimants with the ability to process their own claims, including the obtaining of medical evidence via MedCo.
Finally a new RTA Small Claims Track Pre-action Protocol has been published that brings all the measures together and sets out how the new process for making a claim will work.
When will this all go live?
The provisions of the whiplash reforms will apply to accidents on after 31 May 2021. For accidents happening before this date the existing rules and process will continue to apply.
What does it mean for MedCo?
The Whiplash Reforms embed the outcome of the MOJ consultation on Future Provision of Medical Reports in Road Traffic Accident related personal injury claims published in September 2019. The key changes mean
- The MedCo system will be extended to cover the provision of initial medical reports in relation to all RTA related personal injury claims under £5,000, regardless of whether a claimant is represented or unrepresented.
- The provision of initial medical reports for non-whiplash personal injury claims, whether or not accompanied by a whiplash injury, are to be limited to General Practitioners (GPs) and Accident and Emergency (A&E) consultants only.
- Medical Reporting Organisations (MROs) and Direct Medical Experts (DMEs) wanting to provide services to unrepresented claimants via the new Official Injury Claims Portal will need to meet new supplemental qualifying criteria and rules.
- Legal representatives will continue to be able to obtain medical reports for their clients via the existing direct access procedure with the MedCo portal.
Medical Reporting Organisations and Direct Medical Experts
If you are an operational Medical Reporting Organisation (MRO) or an accredited Direct Medical Expert (DME) the key decision you will need to make in the run up to 31 May 2021 is whether you wish to opt-in to provide medical reporting services to unrepresented claimants via Official Injury Claims.
All DME expert types are able to consider opting in to provide services for whiplash injury claims to unrepresented claimants however as per the rules only GP and A&E experts will be able to provide a service to unrepresented claimants for non-whiplash injury claims.
To get a feel for how the unrepresented process will work and what is expected a high-level process flow diagram has been produced by MedCo. Click here to view the document.
In order to opt-in, MROs and DMEs must meet the supplemental QC and Rules published by the MOJ and must pass an audit. There is also new supplemental User Agreements that opted-in DMEs and MROs must accept.
Whilst the final steps are being taken to finalise the Audit programme of work you should consider the supplemental QC and Rules and start to put together evidence to demonstrate or show that you can meet them. A copy of the new supplemental user agreement for DMEs can be found here and a copy of the new supplemental user agreement for MROs can be found here.
The anticipated timetable for DMEs and MROs wanting to opt-in is shown below
W/C 8 March 2021 Information relating to the Audit process and an Audit guide will be published.
W/C 15 March 2021 MedCo system will be enhanced to allow operational DMEs and MROs to apply to opt-in.
W/C 22 March 2021 Audits will commence and continue on an ongoing basis.
Audits will be carried out on a first come first served basis however, it is strongly recommended that you do not opt in unless you are ready for the audit process to commence at short notice.
Indirect Medical Expert (IME)
If you are an IME, your work will continue to be received and processed via the MROs with which you have contracts. Your level of involvement with work via Official Injury Claims for unrepresented claimants will depend on whether the MROs you work for opt-in and are successful in their MedCo audit.
The same rules will apply in that all medical expert types can do whiplash work but only GP and A&E experts can provide reports for non-whiplash cases.
Authorised Users (AUT)
As an authorised user MedCo will remain the system used to source MROs or DME for both whiplash and non-whiplash claims.
We hope this initial communication provides you with some helpful information and we will provide further updates over the course of the next few weeks.