When bringing a claim for damages following a brain injury, the injured party will need to attend a private medical examination arranged for them by their solicitor, and in some cases where injuries are severe, it may be necessary to be examined by a number of different medical experts at different appointments.
The medical examination provides a key piece of evidence about the claim, but it can be a worry to the injured party as to what will happen at the examination and what is expected of them.
We spoke to Tim Jones, Legal Director at Brain Injury Group member law firm Enable Law about medical examinations – Tim has over 20 years’ experience assisting people to bring a claim following injury, including high value brain injury claims, claims as a result of negligent medical care and claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority where someone has been injured as a result of a violent assault.
Why is a medical examination necessary? I’ve been seen by so many doctors – do I really need to see more?
The reason for these examinations is so that a medico-legal report can be prepared by the medical expert, which will be used to provide evidence to the Defendants about your injuries. The medical expert who examines you will provide their own independent opinion about your injuries, the likely cause of them, how long they are likely to last and the effect they may have on you.
Is there anything I need to do to prepare for the examination?
Before the examination date, your solicitor will collate copies of all your medical records which will be forwarded to the expert. These are provided so that the expert is aware of any previous injuries you have suffered, which may have had an impact on the severity of the injury from which you are now suffering and to provide the expert with all the important information about your injuries. Your solicitor will also prepare a letter of instruction which sets out details of the incident and injuries you have sustained. It may be useful to keep a diary of your symptoms and problems in the run up to any medical examination, to ensure that you provide a full record of how the injury has impacted your life at the medical examination.
Where will the examination be held?
Your solicitor will try to arrange for the examination to be held as close to your home as possible, although this is not always possible depending on the availability and speciality of the expert you need to see. It is usually held at private medical consulting rooms but can be held at your home if you are unable to travel.
It’s very important that you attend all medical examinations arranged for you as there are often hefty missed appointment fees that you may be liable for if you do not attend. If you have any concerns, cannot make the date or need help with financing travel to the appointment, including for any person that needs to travel with you to the appointment, you should discuss these as early as possible with your solicitor.
What should I expect at the examination and how long will it take?
The length of a medical examination will vary depending on your injuries and the type of expert you are seeing, but you should expect it to take at least half an hour to an hour. But it may take far longer than this.
At the examination, the expert will ask you questions about the incident and your injuries – you should provide the expert with a full and honest description of your injuries, ensuring that you explain how they affect you as well as how they are effecting your work, home life, hobbies and relationships. If the expert asks any questions that you do not fully understand, don’t hesitate to ask them to explain the question to you. The main thing to remember is to be honest, open and clear about your injuries and the affect they are having on you.
At most examinations a physical examination of your injuries will also be necessary.
I’m a little nervous or I have trouble communicating following my accident – can I take someone with me to the appointment?
A friend or family member can accompany you to the appointment, and in most cases can stay with you during the examination. There may be occasions where the examining doctor feels that their presence may have a detrimental effect on the examination and ask the person to wait outside.
If English is not your first language and an interpreter is required to attend the appointment, your solicitor will arrange for a professional interpreter to be present, it is usually not appropriate for a friend or family member to act as interpreter.
So, I’ve attended the appointment, what now?
The medical expert will prepare their medical report, which generally takes around 4-8 weeks. It will be sent directly to your solicitor who will analysis the report, checking for any discrepancies between the information they have about the incident and injuries, compared to the medical expert’s report.
The report may contain recommendations about rehabilitation and whether a report by a different type of medical practitioner should be obtained, which your solicitor will consider and arrange as appropriate.
The report will be sent to you for approval, and your solicitor will want you to check the content, to ensure that it is factually correct and reflects the information you provided at the examination. If you have any queries or concerns about the medical report, or feel any part of it is incorrect, you should raise these with your solicitors as soon as possible. If appropriate, your solicitor may raise queries with the expert and ask them to correct factually incorrect information. The expert will give a number of opinions about your injuries, such as how pre-existing conditions may have affected your current symptoms and the impact your injuries will have on your future life. If you disagree with any of the expert’s opinions it is often not possible to change these. In some cases it may be possible to request a second medical examination from a different expert if you fundamentally disagree with the report – there can be cost implications, to you, for this and you should discuss this fully with your solicitor.
How is the medical report used as part of my claim?
Once you have approved the medical report, the report will be submitted to the Defendants to assist with valuing your claim.
The Defendants have the right to raise questions of the medical professional who examined you and they may request that you see an additional expert of their choice, to allow them to explore different medical opinions. The duty of all medical experts is to the Court and not the instructing solicitor, and they must therefore give a clear and impartial opinion based on their examination, irrespective of whether they have been instructed by your solicitor or the Defendant. However, reports prepared by the Defendants’ expert will be sent directly to the Defendant. If the report says broadly the same as the report prepared by your medical expert, they may choose not to use the report further. If there are any areas of disagreement, they may choose to rely on the report, in which case they will provide a copy of the report to your solicitors, who in turn will provide a copy to you. You should read this report carefully and if there is anything you disagree with or think has been incorrectly reported, you should notify your solicitor as soon as possible.
In cases where two medical reports have been prepared by experts of the same discipline (eg a neurologists report, one requested by your solicitor and one requested by the Defendant) the two experts will liaise over areas of dispute in the reports and may provide short joint reports.
What experts might I see as part of a brain injury claim?
It is likely that several medical experts will be instructed, including:
- a neurosurgeon or neurologist
- a neuropsychologist
- a rehabilitation consultant
- orthopaedic surgeon
In addition, as your claim progresses, further non-medical expert reports may need to be prepared in order to value your claim and your ongoing care and rehabilitation requirements. These may include:
- occupational therapists
- case manager
- housing expert
- care expert
- independent financial adviser
Whilst many of these non-medical experts will meet with you face to face before preparing their report to understand the impact of your injuries, a physical examination may not be necessary.
What if I still have concerns?
If you have any further concerns, talk to your solicitor – they are there to help you and will be able to talk you through all aspects of the claims process to ease your concerns.
About Tim Jones
Tim is a Legal Director at member law firm Enable Law who have offices in London, Southampton and throughout the South West. Based at their Taunton office, Tim assists clients all over England and Wales and is happy to travel to meet clients at their homes, in hospital or other convenient locations. With over 20 years’ experience, Tim specialises in cases involving brain and spinal injury, whether as a result of a violent attack (criminal injury claims), accident or clinical negligence. He advises Brain Injury Group on our training programme for brain injury specialist lawyers. Tim is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, a volunteer for the Spinal Injuries Association and supports his local Headway, participating in charity fundraising events and with their annual conference.
For more details, or to contact Tim view Tim Jones’ Brain Injury Group profile
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