A number of the country’s leading personal injury law firms are preparing to seek a judicial review of the Government’s changes to the use of medical experts in whiplash claims.
The group of firms is arguing that the creation of a new medical expert hub – which will mean that claimants will only be able to choose from a restricted list of medical experts rather than having the freedom to select their own – is a breach of individuals’ human rights.
The plans were the subject of a month-long consultation, which closed at the beginning of October and The Ministry of Justice confirmed earlier this week that the changes were likely to come into force early in 2015.
Lawyers from the group have said that the move would severely impede people’s ability to prepare their own claim and they have also issued an invitation to bodies such as the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), the Law Society and the Personal Injury Bar Association, to join their campaign to halt the reforms.
Mark Jones, a partner at JMW Solicitors and the lawyer acting for the group, said there were concerns that the shift could ultimately result in people pursuing any personal injury action being denied justice.
“We share the desire of ministers and the insurance industry to clamp down on the number of fraudulent claims. However, that should not be at the cost of the legitimate claimant being allowed to make a genuine claim,” he said.
“If the changes put forward take effect it would amount to a quantum leap by the Government and would be nothing short of an attack on justice. We would move from an adversarial system to a more inquisitorial one and reduce the process of making a claim to a form-filling exercise.”
Jones added that the reform could prevent more than 900,000 people from making legitimate whiplash claims each year.
“It cannot be right that a claimant is refused the right to carefully select a properly qualified and accredited expert and is told instead they must choose someone from a more limited list made available to them,” said Jones.
The group of firms has also warned that the Government’s plans could extend beyond whiplash and affect other PI and civil claims.
“That is a prospect which simply needs to be challenged,” he added.