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Understanding your solicitor’s need for medical reports; what role do they play in your claim?

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As I sit preparing for my first job of the day, collating 6 bulky folders of medicalrecords for a particular accident at work case, it got me thinking about medical records and their importance within any personal injury case. Being a personal injury solicitor, a big part of my job is explaining the vital role medical records play in claiming compensation and it’s easy to understand why people get confused.

For the purposes of shedding some light on the complexity surrounding medical records, I’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions.

One that I’ve been asked time and time again is:

Will my solicitor require access to my medical records if I pursue a personal injury claim?

Most likely, yes. The amount of compensation awarded in a successful personal injury claim depends largely upon the nature and seriousness of the injuries you have sustained. A medical assessment of your injuries will be undertaken by an independent medical expert. The expert will then base their findings on that assessment as well as based on any relevant medical history recorded in your medical records (e.g. GP, hospital and treatment notes). It is therefore not out of the ordinary for your solicitor to obtain copies of your medical records in order to send them on to the independent medical expert. Your solicitor will then provide a valuation of your claim for pain suffering and loss of amenity based on the medical expert’s findings.

How are my medical records obtained?

There’s usually little effort needed on the client’s part. Your solicitor will apply for a copy of your medical records and send a copy to a medical expert. This medical expert will then receive instructions to examine you and prepare a report detailing your injuries.

What if I have suffered with health issues before the accident?

Many people assume that if they suffer from a pre-existing condition, they can’t claim compensation, even when the accident severely worsened the condition. This isn’t always the case. Your medical records form an important part of the expert's assessment as they identify any entries which are relevant to the injury for which you are claiming compensation. For example, if you are claiming compensation for a neck injury, it is likely that any previous entries in your GP notes relating to other previous neck injuries will be relevant to your case. It may be that a previous neck injury has left you more vulnerable to subsequent injuries and (whilst this may not affect the amount of compensation you receive) would be classed as a material factor as far as the medical evidence is concerned.

What are other reasons for my solicitor needs my medical records?

Sometimes the entries in your medical records detailing the frequency of your attendance after the accident may assist in proving your claim, especially if there is a dispute over the circumstances of the accident, or over the extent of your injuries. If your solicitor believes it would assist your case to send copies of any relevant medical record entries to your opponent as well as the medical expert, they would advise you of this.

Can I refuse access to my medical records?

Well yes, but it does make your claim a bit trickier. If you refuse to authorise release of your medical records to your solicitor, your claim may be significantly hindered. The other side's legal representative may consider that you have 'something to hide' - i.e. some material fact in your medical history that you do not wish to be disclosed. This may lead to doubt being cast on the authenticity of your claim. However, even if you do not feel completely at ease disclosing your medical records you should take comfort in the fact that you will have entered into a client confidentiality agreement with your solicitor, meaning that any personal information (including certain parts of your medical records, if you wish) cannot be disclosed without your consent. It may be the case that you can specify that only parts of your medical history that are relevant to your current injuries be referred to in the medical report. This may happen as a matter of course but if you feel strongly about not having certain parts of your medical notes disclosed you should discuss your concerns with your solicitor.

Ultimately, the medical report forms the basis upon which your claim for pain suffering and loss of amenity is valued. Your solicitor will use this report to compare your case with previously settled cases where the injuries suffered were similar to that of your own. It is therefore important that the medical report is as comprehensive and accurate as possible if your claim is to be valued correctly.

For more advice about medical records and reports, speak to a member of the team today. At Lance Mason, we pride ourselves in making the complexities of the law accessible to those without a legal background i.e. we won’t pepper you with unnecessary legal jargon! Call us free of charge today on 08000 84 2000 or submit an online enquiry form and a member of the team will call you straight back.

 

By: Lesley Layton