The Ministry of Justice could achieve reform of the way rehabilitation is provided to injured people without the unexpected and dangerous reforms hidden away at the back of its recent consultation on reforming personal injury claims, leading law firm Hudgells has said.
Simply making the Rehabilitation Code – an approved framework for injury claims – compulsory, rather than voluntary as at present, would address any concerns that may exist.
While the focus of attention since publication of the consultation, Reforming the soft-tissue injury (whiplash) claims process, has been on the increase in the small claims limit and restriction or removal of damages, it also asks for views on measures to reduce the potential for fraud in rehabilitation and cut financial links between solicitors and rehabilitation providers.
However, the consultation paper cites no proper evidence of problems, referring just to concerns that have been raised “by a number of sources” and to “anecdotal evidence”.
The options for reform include drastic measures such as requiring claimants with low-value claims to fund any rehabilitation costs – like a course of physiotherapy – themselves, rather than have them paid by the party who caused the injury. This could lead to claimants not seeking the help they need and their injury persisting for longer than necessary or turning to the NHS instead at the expense of the taxpayer.
Remarkably, the consultation paper makes no mention of the Rehabilitation Code, which enables claimant representatives and compensators to work together on rehabilitation.
The code was agreed, and is periodically reviewed, by a working group that includes representatives from the International Underwriting Association of London, the Association of British Insurers, primary insurers, legal groups, care providers and the NHS.
Amanda Stevens, group head of legal practice at Hudgells and a prime mover behind the Rehabilitation Code, says: “All sides of the personal injury industry have co-operated to create a way of delivering rehabilitation that works for the injured person first and foremost, but also the paying party, lawyers and providers.”
The code, which was only revised last year, contains industry-agreed safeguards to ensure compensators are not forced into accepting a course of treatment or cost they are unhappy with, so I cannot understand why the Ministry of Justice is contemplating drastic reform to address an unspecified potential for fraud.
“There is a simple and quick win here – while the Civil Procedure Rules recommend the Rehabilitation Code, its use remains voluntary. Making the code a compulsory part of the claims process will ensure that best practice is adhered to by all, without the need for the Ministry of Justice to take risks with the recovery of claimants from their injuries.”
The government consultation can be found here. The section on rehabilitation is on pages 38-40, paragraphs 138 to 145.