Whiplash medical reports – MedCo & beyond

Whiplash medical reports

MedCo will be a new system for sourcing medical reports in soft tissue injury claims brought under the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents. Any Claim Notification Form sent on or after the 6th April 2015 involving a soft tissue injury claim, must have a fixed cost Medical Report commissioned from a medical expert or MRO sourced via MedCo.

With effect from 1st January 2016 medical experts must be accredited by Medco Registration Solutions in order to provide the initial fixed cost Medical Report in a soft tissue injury claims.

There is clearly a certain level of anxiety and uncertainty in the minds of all the stakeholders as to how effective and efficient the system might be. The claimant solicitors are unsure with the prospect of having to use the medical reports written by “random experts.” Some even fear that these reports may well not serve their purpose and not help them to achieve the best possible outcome for their clients.

The medical experts would be under the spotlight. Annual accreditation and Auditing of the medical reports should ensure quality improvement. The medical experts would be expected to give evidence based opinion and prognosis. They would need to invest time and money in keeping abreast with the training required for this particular task. The financial renumeration for the medical reports is clearly a much debated topic.

The MOJ has introduced these reforms as a part their long running goal & ambition to stamp out fraud from the personal injury claims. That is certainly a worthy cause! However , somewhere along the line , the actual medical issue of whiplash injury itself has been rather trivialised and the genuine sufferers may well be swept under the carpet !

The facts about Whiplash Injury

The Myth of Total Recovery

“The soft tissue injuries will heal in 12 weeks.” This perpetual myth is a party line of insurers based on no scientific evidence. There are currently 89 published outcome studies and the common theme that comes out is that whilst 45% of cases may recover in 12 weeks, nearly 55% continue to suffer beyond 3months and some beyond 2 years post accident. More than 50% will have certain level of symptoms beyond the first year and 10% never recover and can be classed as disabled.

This particular scientific fact has significant implications for the claimants solicitors and medical experts alike. If the medical experts fail to carry out the Risk Factor Analysis in their initial reports then they would not be able to point out those cases that would develop chronic symptoms. The cases may well get under-settled on inadequate and incomplete medical information. The medical experts could then be potentially failing in their duty and exposing themselves to the law suits by their own instructing solicitors.

It is important that the claimants solicitors become more probing and inquisitive about the potential long term risks for their clients. Instead of looking for a ball park figure of few months prognosis they should be asking more questions off the medical experts about the “Risk Factor Analysis”.

The MedCo has an opportunity to ensure that the auditing process could in some way address this issue and protect the medical experts from potential law suits.

Low Velocity Impact ( LVI) Whiplash

It has become almost fashionable for the insurers these days to ask the medical experts to look at the photographs of the involved vehicles with no visible damage. Low Velocity Impact whiplash is not a myth and injuries do occur at low speed with no visible damage to the vehicle. There is a whole lot of scientific crash testing data in the published literature to support this . It is an incredibly complex issue and medical exports would need to familiarise themselves with the Biomechanics of Whiplash injury and related scientific studies. The insurers would need to do more than just sending repair estimates and photographs if they are serious about the LVI issue. The claimants solicitors would need to learn to ask questions off the insures and rebut the engineering evidence instead of just folding over and forwarding the photos to the medical experts.

Whilst the financials may not always permit detailed investigations in these cases it is important to ensure that the genuine claimants get all the treatments and the compensation that they deserve. The science is out there to support the cause but both the medical exports and the solicitors need to work together and ensure that the scientific information is well applied in each and every case of Whiplash Injury!

(Source – Training Seminars by Arthur Croft PhD DCMsCMPH, Director , Spine Research Institute of San Diego, California, USA)