Personal injury update, what you need to know if you are referred to a medical expert by your Solicitor.

You may have seen some media attention recently about a Judge effectively criticising a Solicitor for a direct referral of an injured client to a specialist. This was done without first asking the client’s doctor to carry out the referral.

In the particular case the issue was raised by the defendant’s lawyers that the court should attach less weight to the evidence of the consultant as he was employed directly by the solicitor.

The judge in that case took a particular angle saying the solicitor does not have to be a medical expert in order to advise the plaintiff to engage an appropriate specialist medical expert.

 He went on to say if the defence wish to challenge the medical expert as being independent  they should have done so in examining the doctor on the basis of his Report. 

The  Consultant there was called to give evidence on behalf of of the injured person was instructed directly by her solicitor and not by her GP.

The suggestion is that by referring directly the solicitor and the consultant are in some way connected and a better report would be obtained bypassing the plaintiff’s GP.

The reality in Ireland today is that very few GPs are interested in preparing adequate medical reports on their patients if they attend following any type of a impact resulting in an injury claim.

 Any visit to a GPs practice these days will see they are overloaded with existing clients and now  deal with the arrival of new patients  into the surgery under the various HSE schemes to provide free medical treatment. GPs have advised me that medical reports are low on their priority after a day of constant dealing with day-to-day problems of their patients.

From the solicitor’s point of view the client has been asked to pay from the outset for the medical report costs which can range anything from €250 plus VAT to 7 or €800 plus VAT for a psychiatric report. Such outlay by the client must ensure that value for money must be obtained and the solicitor very often is better to refer the injured client to a specialist directly. Otherwise corresponding with GP who may be overworked and not interested in medical reports and equally not referring onto various consultants may delay the commencement of an injury claim. Claims must be lodged within 2 years of the particular incident or accident so time runs. Sometimes clients do not always attend in relation to an injury until well into the time period of 2 years allowed. After that there is pressure to get some sort of a medical report to lodge a claim with the injury board within the time limit allowed.

For economic reasons and time reasons solicitor must act in the best interests of the client and apply straight to a consultant. They  may very well have easier access to any hospital notes than an independent GP. Similarly access to x-ray scans may be easier for the consultant than the GP which leads to the production of a medical legal report for the purposes of commencing a claim. Dealing with personal injury claims I found consultants are both independent and professional in relation to assessment of any injury and will essentially call it as it is.

In conclusion as long as GP practices are overflowing it is preferable that the solicitor go directly to the appropriate consultant to prepare a report without the need to involve the GP.