Independent medical panels will be introduced next year to assess whiplash injuries

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced further measures to go after ‘whiplash fraudsters’ and drive down insurance premiums.

It plans to introduce new independent medical panels from next year to assess whiplash injuries and will start developing a scheme for accrediting medical experts who can make assessments and carry out spot checks.

Lawyers from both sides of the fence have welcomed the measures, but firms acting for claimants have raised concerns over how robustly the plans will be implemented.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling said the panels will ensure that only evidence from accredited professionals can be considered.

“We are turning the tide on the compensation culture and helping hardworking people by tackling high insurance premiums and other motoring costs,” he said.

“It’s not right that people who cheat the insurance system get away with it while forcing up the price for everyone else, so we are now going after whiplash fraudsters and will keep on driving premiums down.”

According to figures from the AA, average motor insurance premiums have fallen by more than 12% over the past year.

The referral fee ban introduced by the MoJ in April is understood to have contributed to this reduction.

Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) vice-president John Spencer said: “The reference to independence is encouraging, but the devil really will be in the detail. Who will control the panel? Who will register experts to it and control entry to the panel? What will the appeal process be?”

SGI Legal managing partner Simon Gibson said: “I would urge the MoJ to fully consult with stakeholders to ensure that the implementation of the panels adds value to the claims process.”

Kennedys law firm, which acts for insurers, believes that the measures will ensure that genuine claimants receive the compensation they are entitled to and quickly.

Partner Richard West added: “It is to be hoped that the days of suspiciously routine diagnoses and repetitively identical prognoses for alleged whiplash injuries are over.

“Those uninjured claimants who have felt it too easy to claim for whiplash in the past should now be dissuaded from doing so.”

Forum of Insurance Lawyers chief executive Laurence Besemer said: “Set up correctly, this could help to change the claims landscape for the good.”