The Motor Accident Insurance and Other Legislation Act 2019 received royal assent on 5 December 2019.
From that date, significant reforms aimed at stopping claims farming schemes came into effect in Queensland. These reforms created additional practical requirements from claimant’s pursuing CTP claims and their solicitors as well as creating offences and imposing strict penalties for those engaged in claims farming and associated schemes.
We previously reported on the background to the Motor Accident Insurance and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, after it was introduced to parliament in June 2019 (you can read our earlier article here).
In short, the primary objective of the new legislation is to stop claims farming. The nuts and bolts of the reforms are set out below.
Practical Changes to the CTP Claim Process
The reforms will require additional information to be provided by claimants, their doctors and their solicitors in the Notice of Accident Claim Form at the time of commencing a CTP claim.
The claimant is now required to sign a certificate declaring whether they are making the claim on their own initiative or if they were solicited or induced to make the claim by another person.
If the claimant has engaged a law practice to act on their behalf, the claimant’s solicitor also needs to sign a certificate on commencement of the claim indicating whether the law practice has given any fee, gift or other benefit to another person in exchange for the referral of the claimant to the law practice.
The claimant’s medical practitioner, who is required to provide a CTP medical certificate at the time a claim is commenced, must also certify that they have physically examined the claimant and whether the claimant was an existing patient of theirs prior to the accident. Medical practitioners will also now be required to provide their AHPRA number on the CTP medical certificate.
Furthermore, solicitors acting for CTP claimants are now required to provide a ‘law practice certificate’ at various points in the claims process. This certificate requires the supervising principal of the law practice to certify that neither they, nor their firm, have engaged in claims farming activities in relation to the claim at any time from 5 December 2019 onwards. This requirement extends to claims commenced before the reforms came into effect and means that solicitors involved in claims which remain on foot post 5 December 2019, and which were initiated by claims farming activity, will be required to certify their involvement in that activity at resolution of the claim.
Each of these measures will assist CTP insurer’s and MAIC to identify suspicious claims and claims farming activity.
New Claims Farming Offences and Enforcement
There are now 2 claims farming offences in Queensland.
Firstly, it is an offence to give or receive consideration for referral of a claimant or potential claimant. Consideration includes any fee or other benefit, but gifts, other than cash, with a value of $200 or less are permissible.
Secondly, it is offence to personally approach or contact another person to solicit or induce that person to make a CTP claim. This offence includes contact in person, by mail, telephone, email or any other form of electronic communication.
The reforms give MAIC increased powers to investigate the affairs of a law practice which is suspected to be engaged in claims farming activity and to obtain an injunction against a person who has been engaged in claims farming to prevent the conduct from continuing.
In addition, significant fines of up to $40,035 can be imposed on those who have committed claims farming offences under the reforms.
The offence and enforcement provisions have extraterritorial operation meaning that any claims farmers who operate interstate in respect of Queensland claims will be subject to the full force of the reforms.