All agree the benefits of early rehabilitation, but from where and at what cost?
The delegates that attend our award-winning training events are a diverse group of professionals with a common interest in supporting individuals and families affected by brain injury. They include both claimant and defendant solicitors, case managers, insurers, occupational therapists, social workers, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists as well as representatives from charities and support groups.
At a recent event that focused on rehabilitation, we asked the delegates to tell us how early they consider rehabilitation for clients. In the event of a personal injury claim being pursued, we also asked whether they would seek interim payments from the defendant to fund rehabilitation, whether those payments were forthcoming, and the alternative routes they might consider.
The response to the first question – how early in the claim process do you consider rehabilitation for your client – was an overwhelming ‘immediately’ – ideally as soon as the client is out of intensive care, and certainly (from the legal professionals’ perspective) from the initial instruction by the client.
Our second question – do you have problems securing an early interim payment from the defendants for rehabilitation – drew a mixed response. Several responders referenced seeking funding under the Rehabilitation Code*, but the bottom line seemed to be that there could be problems accessing interim payments if there is any issue of liability at all or if defendants wanted to take control of the rehabilitation in order to control costs. More than one responder preferred to avoid using interim payments** for essential rehabilitation.
When it comes to essential early treatment, none of our responders ruled out referring to statutory services and to signposting NHS and charity provision for the immediate support their clients required whether or not funding is available from the defendants.
The mixed responses suggest a degree of misunderstanding – or possibly reluctance – to follow the principles of the Rehabilitation Code which encourages parties to collaborate and get early treatment for the injured person funded by the party being sued.
The fact that early intervention improves the chances of the best possible recovery is well documented, and the quickest access to intensive rehabilitation could well be through the private sector. It’s a costly option, but the cost of timely intervention that could lead to a better outcome could reduce the final settlement if the injured party benefits from a better recovery.
Even if there is still a question over who was responsible for an incident resulting in injury, the Code still urges compensators to consider early rehabilitation where there is even the possibility of liability be accepted later.
So why the reluctance? Would making the Rehabilitation Code mandatory be the answer to getting injured people the treatment they need?
* The Rehabilitation Code is a voluntary code that provides a framework to enable claimant representatives (usually solicitors) and compensators (usually insurance companies) involved in personal injury and clinical negligence claims to work together to help the injured claimant make the quickest possible recovery.
** An interim payment is an amount paid during the course of a claim to someone on account of damages that a defendant might be liable to pay at the end of the case. They are intended to prevent the claimant suffering financial hardship before the case is resolved, but are not available in every claim.