Importance of medical evidence in a personal injury claim
A question I am often asked is why it is necessary for us to obtain your whole medical history to progress your claim. A request for your records is often necessary and whilst it may seem intrusive, it is often a vital part of the claim.
If your personal injury claim is successful then the amount of compensation awarded will depend on the nature and seriousness of the injuries that you have sustained. You will be required to be examined by a medical expert who will then prepare a medical report which is based on that examination and any relevant medical history recorded in your medical records.
Your medical records provide the expert with vital information to assist with establishing a diagnosis, prognosis and any future complications that you may suffer from. It will also assist any experts in understanding what diagnosis and treatment you have received to date and this may impact any recommendations for further treatment.
Reviewing medical records is a vital part of the claim as it helps establish whether the injury was sustained as a consequence of the accident or due to unrelated circumstances. They also assist the expert in ascertaining whether you suffered from any pre-existing symptoms or conditions prior to the accident which may have impacted the injuries sustained in the accident. It may be that the accident exacerbated or accelerated a pre-existing condition and by reviewing your records it will assist the expert in determining what period of injury and recovery can be attributable to the accident.
Other reasons for needing your medical records
There are also instances where obtaining your medical records can benefit your claim in other ways. For example, if there is ever a dispute over the circumstances of the accident or the extent of injuries, then sometimes entries that detail your attendance at the hospital or GP following the accident may be helpful in proving that the accident occurred as alleged.
Who will see your medical records?
Once your solicitor receive your medical records they will review them in detail to consider any relevant entries in your medical history. A copy is sent to the medical expert to review, and if necessary make reference to, when they complete their report.
Your legal representative and the medical expert are bound by the Data Protection Act and therefore will not disclose your records without your consent or by order of the Court. A situation may arise where it is necessary for your medical records to be disclosed to the opponent’s representatives.
However, they too are also bound by the Data Protection Act.
If there is sensitive information within your records that is not relevant to your claim (including names of your relatives/friends) then those references may be removed by your GP surgery prior to being disclosed to us.
What will happen if you refuse access to your medical records?
By refusing to authorise the release of your medical records there is a great risk that this will impact the success of your personal injury claim. Your opponent may argue that you are attempting to hide a material fact within your medical history.
If you refuse full or partial disclosure of your medical records then this can also result in a medical expert advising that they cannot provide an accurate report without reviewing your complete medical history. However, please also note only specific entries in your records would be referred to in the medical report if they are relevant to the injuries sustained in the accident.
If you do have concerns with providing your authority to release your records then please rest assured that your legal representative also owe a duty of confidentiality to you. This duty of confidentiality is found in Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Code of Conduct and this duty will continue even after your claim is finalised.
The medical report is the crucial basis for valuing your claim in relation to pain, suffering and loss of amenity. It is therefore of utmost importance that the medical report is as accurate as possible.