Personal injury rehabilitation – latest developments and best practice
I recently read an article on the Science Daily website about an exciting new development from America. Apparently Berkeley at the University of California have developed a wireless, implantable sensor, which is the size of a grain of sand! The idea is that it can be developed so that it can be implanted into the body and ultimately be used, for example, by a paraplegic to control a robotic arm. The article describes the future benefits “a Fitbit-like device could monitor internal nerves, muscles or organs in real time.”
This technology is not quite there yet, but it goes to show that there are innovations and scientific discoveries being developed and it is surely only a matter of time before such devices become a reality.
It is easy for those outside the process to assume that bringing a claim is all about money. It is not. It is more than that. It is also to help our clients achieve an optimum recovery. Of course liability and causation first need to be finalised, but I consider it important to ensure that all receive the best rehabilitation in terms of aids, equipment, adaptations and support. This is at the heart of the Rehabilitation Code, which HJA adhere to when instructed.
The type of rehabilitation will, of course, depend upon the severity of the injuries. It can involve the simple instruction of a physiotherapist to assist the recovery of an orthopaedic injury or where the injuries are more severe, the appointment of a Case Manager (who could for example be an Occupational Therapist or a Physiotherapist) to assess the needs of the claimant and recommend action to help a return to the pre-injury lifestyle.
It is usual to arrange for a report called an ‘Initial Needs Assessment’ to be prepared. This will detail the claimant’s difficulties and can make recommendations which could, for example, include kitchen adaptations and the use of special utensils to make eating independently easier or gadgets, for example, a special board to assist with food preparation. Such items may make a huge difference to someone with injuries and who wishes to act independently.
A Case Manager can:
- Discuss treatments so that claimants have a have a choice as to how their care is provided;
- Provide support to the claimant and their family;
- Liaise with the treating hospitals and GP to ensure that the medical care is coordinated;
- Make pain management recommendations;
- Attend appointments with specialists to help claimants understand their injuries and treatments.
Where a brain injury has been sustained for example, support and assistance can be provided and recommendations may be made for cognitive behavioural therapy to help with stress and anxiety, strategies to help improve memory, speech and language therapy and vocational assistance.
Technically under one of the rules governing personal injury claims, the Pre-Action Protocol, if there is an element of blame that could attach itself to those responsible then the insurers should not refuse proportionate rehabilitation. Sadly, in practice this doesn’t always happen. Whilst I appreciate that enquiries have to be made and checks put in place to ensure that the claim has merit, it is essential in my opinion for the insurers to agree to fund a claimant’s ‘Initial Needs Assessment’ as early as possible after the accident to enable trust between the parties to be established and to facilitate a collaboration with the treating team to assist with recovery, both mentally and physically in the early stages. This is particularly important where a serious orthopaedic or a brain injury has been sustained which the injured person and their family may not fully understand, and where they would vastly benefit from some additional support.