On the 23rd March 2020, the Prime Minister announced an unprecedented set of restrictions on our movement, in order to protect the public and reduce the spread of the virus. Although the lockdown is slowly being lifted, it is clear that Covid-19 will continue to have an impact on society. How is Medical Evidence obtained at a time where social interaction is limited?
There are three main stages in the Personal Injury claims process.:
- Liability (whether there has been a breach of duty);
- Causation (whether the breach of duty has caused the injuries); and
- Quantum (the value of the injuries and other incidental losses).
Where liability is straightforward and the defendant has admitted a breach of duty, which has caused the accident to occur, the next stage in the process is to satisfy causation. This involves obtaining Medical Evidence. Based on your injuries, the relevant medical expert/s will be instructed to prepare a Medico-Legal Report. This will be written by the expert in his or her professional role as a medical expert witness. For the report to be prepared, you will be required to attend a medical examination with the instructed expert. Traditionally, this would be face-to-face. The expert will provide a diagnosis and prognosis and may advise on any further necessary investigations. It is for the expert to confirm, based on their professional opinion, that the injuries were caused by the breach of duty.
The lockdown, together with the advice to stay at home, understandably led to face-to-face examinations being suspended. Although this is for the protection of public health, many experts maintain roles within the NHS alongside their private Medico-Legal roles. The arranging of appointments has been suspended since March 23rd and it is unclear when face-to-face examinations will resume. It must also be appreciated that many people will have to self-isolate and may be vulnerable.
As a consequence, the claims process has had to adapt and respond to the unprecedented conditions. To minimise disruption, medical appointments are proceeding remotely, instead taking place via video link. This is encouraged especially in soft-tissue and/or whiplash claims. Previously, there was a general ban on remote assessments in these claims; however this has been lifted in the current circumstances. It is likely that remote examinations will be common practice in the future.
Similarly, rehabilitation treatment, including physiotherapy and psychological therapies can also be arranged to take place remotely via video link. This ensures those who are injures can continue to access treatment to aid and facilitate their recovery.
The cross-industry agreements ensure any disruption and delays to the process can be minimised.