A personal injury lawyer at one of the region’s top law firms has voiced concern that cancelled medical assessments due to the COVID-19 shutdown could cause cash-strapped claimants to settle prematurely.
Medico-legal examinations which would usually be held face to face have been cancelled for safety reasons in line with government guidelines. But Robert Williams, head of Personal Injury at GHP Legal, says it is possible for some medical assessments to still be carried out by video call and claimants should seek urgent legal advice before considering any settlement without a medical assessment.
“Unfortunately, claimants are in some cases being pressured to settle without a medical assessment,” he says, “on the basis it could take many months to progress cases as far as that, due to the lockdown. It is not, however, advisable to settle any claim without medical evidence because if you settle a claim on a final basis you cannot re-open the case if your condition does not improve or, worse still, if it deteriorates.
“It is perfectly understandable that in the current situation face to face medical examinations should be cancelled. However, where for example a psychological/psychiatric report is needed, it is not necessary to have a physical examination and this type of assessment can take place by video call. Remote medical assessments may also be possible for less complicated injuries where only a GP report is needed.
“In the case of more complex injuries, such as spinal injuries, obtaining medical evidence will be a slower process anyway. In the meantime, solicitors are still working behind the scenes, remotely from home, so cases are still progressing. If claimants are finding themselves in financial difficulties, which many are due to the COVID crisis, their solicitor can apply for an interim payment of some of the damages now, before the total settlement is decided.”