When bringing a claim for personal injuries and subsequent losses it is necessary to prove:
- An accident occurred;
- It was caused as a result of someone else’s breach of duty/negligence -ie it was someone else’s (“the Defendant’s”) fault; and
- That fault caused your injuries (and losses).
As a Claimant it is necessary to prove your claim. In order to prove your injuries (“pain, suffering and loss of amenity”) were sustained as a result of the accident, your medical records will be obtained and you will need independent medico-legal expert evidence.
Your medical records will be reviewed to ensure that your injuries are documented and consistent with the mechanism of the accident. Your pre-accident medical history will also be looked at to see if the accident has had any effect on any pre-existing conditions. The Defendant’s representatives will also check to see if the records reveal any other possible cause for the injuries and use this to undermine your claim.
So why can’t your GP just prepare a report? Why is it necessary to see a medico-legal expert?
There is a risk that a treating GP/Consultant may not be able to provide impartial/dispassionate advice.
Your GP and your NHS Consultants have an interest in your recovery and will be concerned about your treatment and how to make you better.
The Court however will prefer evidence from an independent medical expert who will have expertise in preparing reports for the purpose of Court Proceedings and who can objectively describe the injuries sustained, how they were caused and give their opinion upon the extent of those injuries and how long you are likely to suffer from them (known as the prognosis period).
The independent expert may make treatment recommendations but will not organise or arrange this. As such your GP/NHS consultant should always be your first point of call for your rehabilitation (supplemented where appropriate with private treatment funded by the Defendant under the Rehabilitation Code).
As a personal injury lawyer I will then use the expert or experts’ reports to value the claim for pain, suffering and loss of amenity. I do this by comparing the injuries sustained with previous cases decided by the Courts, where Claimants have sustained similar injuries. I will for example, look at the effect the injuries have had upon the Claimant’s daily life and capacity for work.
Another reason for instructing independent experts is that in my daily practise I see clients who have sustained serious and multiple injuries. The Claimant’s GP is unlikely to have the specialist knowledge required in order to advise upon the nature and extent of the injuries and it will often be necessary to instruct multiple experts in different fields. For example, where one of my clients has been involved in a road traffic accident, due to the extent of symptoms sustained I could instruct multiple experts including an orthopaedic surgeon to advise upon fractured bones, a neurologist to advise upon a brain injury, together with a Neuropsychologist and Neuropsychiatrist to advise upon the effects of that injury, a general surgeon to advise upon internal injuries etc. Further expert reports could also be required to advise upon Occupational Therapy, Care, Housing Adaptations, accommodation or as appropriate.
The Defendant is also likely to seek permission from the court to instruct experts in similar fields.