Why is it important to tell the medico-legal expert of my pre-existing injuries and any other accidents?
In a personal injury claim, a medical-legal expert is instructed to prepare a report on the injuries you sustained in the accident. The medical expert will also provide their opinion on the diagnosis of your injury and prognosis i.e. when you are likely to make a recovery from your injuries, if at all.
An appropriately suitable expert will be instructed by your solicitor. For example if you have suffered a fracture, than a consultant orthopaedic surgeon will be instructed. Whereas if you have suffered burns and scaring than a plastic surgeon will be instructed.
The Civil Procedure Rules state that the expert’s overriding duty is to the Court when preparing his report and this duty overrides any obligation to the person from whom the expert has received instructions, or by whom the expert is paid. This is the case even where liability is admitted and the case is unlikely to go to trial.
An appointment will be arranged at a location convenient to you and you will be asked to attend an examination and meet the medico-legal expert face to face. During the national lockdowns due to the Covid 19 pandemic many appointments took place remotely via video link. As lockdowns have been lifted, examinations are returning to face to face appointments, which are ideal when you have suffered a physical injury and require a physical examination.
The medical expert will ask you questions about the circumstances of the accident and the injuries you have suffered as a result of the accident and the impact this has had on your day to day life. The following areas will be the focus of the appointment and the subsequent medical report:
- Circumstances of the accident
- Nature of injuries suffered
- Treatment sought for your injuries
- Any pre-existing injuries
- Any relevant previous or post accidents you may have been involved in
- Impact of the accident on employment and social life
- Diagnosis and prognosis
- Any recommendations for further tests or treatment
The medico-legal expert will not necessarily have a list of your pre-existing injuries or your involvement in other accidents and therefore it is important that you disclose such information. This is because you are required to be honest and truthful to the medical expert and also because the medical expert has to comment on the issue of causation i.e. whether or not the incident in question has caused your injuries and therefore it is important for the expert to take into account your accident history.
The medical expert will have access to your full medical records (GP, hospital and any treatment records such as physiotherapy), which is likely to include relevant entries in relation to previous/post accidents and similar pre-existing injuries. In the event you fail to disclose a relevant history and the medical expert notes your accident history or any pre-existing injuries from review of your medical records, the expert will comment in the medical report that you denied any relevant accident history and is unlikely to change their comment if you try and correct the report later.
The reason why it is important to inform the medical expert of the above is because once you have approved the medical report and the report has been disclosed to the defendant, you will not be able to correct the report and the defendant is likely to raise concerns about the inconsistent reporting between what you said to the medical expert and the information held in your medical records. The defendant may also make inferences that you have not been truthful about your accident history, that the accident in question has not caused your injuries as alleged and raise concerns about your credibility and refuse to agree to settle your claim.
Where there are instances of several inconsistencies and the defendant is refusing to settle the claim without going to trial, the After The Event (ATE) Insurer may not agree to provide cover to proceed to trial and in such cases, your solicitor may well decide not to proceed with your claim under a no-win no-fee agreement.
The appointment is nothing to worry about. It usually takes approximately 30 minutes and you are welcome to take a friend or family member along with you. The medical expert is not there to judge you about your accident history or your pre-existing injuries. The purpose of the report is to support your claim for personal injury and it is best to be open and honest with the medical expert at the first appointment to avoid any delays in the claim.