Leading personal injury law firm, Thompsons Solicitors, has raised serious concerns over the government’s latest proposals to change the rules on the use of medical experts in personal injury claims, and accused it of attempting to change a well-functioning system to benefit the insurance industry.

An independent report produced by an accredited medical expert is a vital part of any personal injury claim. It enables both the claimant and defendant insurer to know what the injuries are, what the future medical prognosis is and to value that aspect of the claim.

Many specialist personal injury law firms commission independent experts through a medical reporting agency, a system that has proved both efficient and cost-effective.

However, in a recent consultation, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has proposed to change the current system. At the heart of the proposals was the creation of a new insurance-owned and run ‘portal’ called MedCo through which medical experts will be assigned to personal injury claims.

The MoJ has recommended that claimants should be allowed to bypass expert personal injury lawyers and pursue claims alone as litigants in person through the new MedCo service. The MoJ has also suggested that MedCo should not offer a choice on medical experts but rather allocate doctors to cases.

In its response to the consultation, Thompsons has claimed that far from improving the independence of medical reporting, the government is, in fact, attempting to change the rules to give the insurance industry greater control.

Thompsons also questioned the MoJ’s claim that it was “working closely” with stakeholder representatives to develop a proportionate accreditation process for commissioning medical experts.

Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “There is nothing in these proposals that would make the medical reporting system work better - just ill-thought-out measures seemingly designed by the government to please its friends in the insurance industry.

“Imposing a limit on the choice of experts offered to practitioners would remove a significant freedom in the litigation process. It would mean lawyers being forced to use doctors allocated to a case rather than the right doctor. It will inevitably, since the insurers control the portal lead to a ‘dumbing down’ in expertise.

“Allowing claimants to pursue claims as litigants in person through MedCo is the government accepting insurers’ claims that they deal with claimants fairly and equally – which, in our experience, they simply don’t. This is a very crude attempt to discourage injured people from using the expert advice of lawyers and will leave them exposed directly to insurers whose bottom line will always be to offer the lowest possible settlement to keep their shareholders happy.

“The government claims that it has approached stakeholder representatives to develop an accreditation process. However, it is not clear who was actually consulted, we were not approached during the process. Tried and tested systems to commission experts through commissioning agencies, which is efficient and cost-effective for claimants and the defendant insurer are going to be ripped up for no good reason other than to suit the insurers. The end result will be vulnerable injured claimants attempting to fight their own corner against slick insurance companies interested above all in their bottom line”