What’s new in Medico-legal reporting?

What’s new in Medico-legal reporting?
Posted in Blog by Optimal Med
15th January 2015

Ask a question like “what’s new in medico-legal reporting?” and almost always the resounding answer will be “well, nothing.” This year however we see a continuation of the governments crusade against the so called “compensation culture” with the proposed introduction of the controversial Medco portal.

The changes will affect road traffic accident (RTA) claims submitted to the Rapid Portal from 6th April 2015 onwards. The definition of whether a case is caught by the new regime or not is that it applies to a claim brought by an occupant of a motor vehicle where the significant physical injury caused is a soft tissue injury and includes claims where there is a minor psychological injury secondary in significance to the physical injury”. In other words, “whiplash claims.”

So what is Medco? In essence, a taxi-ranking of experts willing to prepare the medico-legal report to support whiplash claims. So, if your claim falls into the definition above and you need expert evidence in the form of a medico-legal report there will be no choice about which expert will prepare that report. You are “allocated” the next expert. Like it or lump it. Moreover, if the rhetoric surrounding this planned process is anything to go by, the Government wants the experts to be “robust” and “tough” on the Claimants. The next stage of the Medco development is therefore to establish a panel of “hand-picked” experts who will fulfil that very definition. Critics say this means they will be biased against Claimants.


Understandably, these changes have provoked widespread alarm and disquiet amongst Personal Injury Practitioners. If we look at the definition of an expert contained within the Civil Procedure Rules we are told their evidence should be the independent product of the expert uninfluenced by the pressures of litigation. They should assist the court by providing objective, unbiased opinions on matters within their expertise. In medico-legal reporting experts are trained medical experts being doctors, surgeons and Consultants, many of whom are by definition eminent practitioners in their chosen field. To suggest such highly trained and esteemed professionals are neither independent nor unbiased will no doubt come as a shock to most. Moreover, exactly what is wrong with the present system whereby the Claimant chooses their own expert? Does the government seriously think all medical experts are making up their evidence to promote the so called “compensation culture?” Are they calling these hard working and respected medical experts liars? Of course they are not. So why the need for such radical change?


It is clear from the discussion surrounding these changes that what is wanted as the end point is a panel of carefully vetted experts who are paid a pittance to produce reports that are tipped against Claimants. How exactly one goes about challenging such partisan evidence on a case by case basis isn’t yet clear. Moreover, what is to happen where the Claimant has religious or ethical objections to the proposed expert isn’t yet known, but this would not accord to the strict “taxi-ranking” ethos since any choice to Claimants is removed (apart one supposes of dropping the claim altogether rather than face examination by an unacceptable expert).


It is therefore unsurprising that these changes have been ill received amongst Personal Injury practitioners who fear this is a step too far in the ongoing campaign to break the so-called “compensation culture” that exists in the UK. On a base level it is difficult to see how the new Medco scheme does not conflict with the Human Rights Act which provides an unfettered right to adduce whatever evidence you choose in Court which in the case of a personal injury litigation would mean an independent expert of the Claimants own choosing.   Accordingly, when the changes were announced, a group of Solicitors, medical agencies and other interested parties immediately announced plans to challenge these changes by way of Judicial Review, although proceedings have yet to be started.


With a proposed implementation date of 6th April 2015, it is clear that Medco will be much debated and much litigated in the next few months. Watch this space as they say!