Ban on claimant solicitors owning medical agencies could be taken to a judicial review

Claimant solicitors are preparing to mount a legal challenge against the government’s plans to introduce independent medical panels to diagnose whiplash.

The plans mean that, when implemented, only medical reports from accredited doctors or physiotherapists would be accepted as evidence for claims.

The government also wants to ban claimant solicitors from owning medical reporting agencies who provide them with reports.

But claimant solicitor firms have claimed the plans would unfairly restrict trade and risk allowing larger medical agencies to behave like a cartel.

A group of around 16 law firms have instructed a QC to advise them on whether they could bring a judicial review against the plans or even challenge them in Europe.

“It appears to be an obvious unfair restraint of trade,” said James Maxey, managing director of both Express Solicitors and medical agency Ontime Reports.

Maxey, who was the first to call on claimant law firms to object the proposals, said claimant solicitors were not able to put pressure on medical assessors to diagnose whiplash just because they owned them.

“Solicitors are obviously allowed to operate separate businesses, we are regulated by the SRA and doctors are regulated by their regulators. Therefore, I’m struggling to see the problem,” he added.

“This is almost a cartel situation where some of the very big medico-legal agencies will be able to get bigger market share at the expense of the smaller ones. “

The government proposed the independent medical panels in October 2013.

At the time, Justice secretary Chris Grayling said the government was committed to fighting the cause of the honest motorist.

“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.”

The Ministry of Justice is currently consulting on the implementation of the panels.

Fixed fees for providing a report are expected to be announced imminently, with accreditation for doctors and physiotherapists expected later in the year.