Agreement on structure of the panels by the end of June

Insurers are to foot the bill when the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) introduces independent medical panels for whiplash claims, Insurance Times understands.

The MoJ has been running consultation meetings with stakeholders this week, and MPs confirmed that insurers would pay the cost of the panels at a meeting with legal and medical practitioners earlier today.

Hill Dickinson head of costs Paul Edwards said MP Shailesh Vara, who was leading the meeting, made it clear that the taxpayer would not be funding the new panels.

“The insurance industry is going to have to pay for the independent medical reporting; it’s not got to cost the taxpayer anything,” Edwards said. “The issue is whether the panel is paid for by the losing defendant or whether there is going to be some money put into a pot to run the panels, as well as money possibly coming in from the experts who will pay for their accreditation.”

Edwards, who attended the meeting, said that one of the topics up for discussion was eligibility to join the medical panels.

“Physios were there in force and were desperately trying to make sue they weren’t excluded [from being on independent medical panels],” he said. “They were at great pains to show how they could be accredited as well.”

“However, things are wide open regarding who’s capable of being on the panels,” he added.

And Edwards said that those at the meeting were left frustrated by the lack of details surrounding the process.

“I came away with more questions than answers,” he said. “There were lots of ideas about how accreditation for experts might work, independence of the panel and how to improve the quality of reports, but we never got anywhere in terms of achieving anything concrete as to how it would work.”

The only firm decision that came out of the meeting was the setting up of a working party to help introduce the panels and an aim to have an agreement on the process by the end of June.

Edwards said: “[Vara] is looking to get set up by the beginning of February a working party to deal with this with a view to trying to get something in place, or if not in place, a firm announcement, by the end of June.”