Shelyna, a Partner at Hansells in Norwich, recently suffered a whiplash injury. Here she recounts her own unsatisfactory ‘MedCo experience’.
Having spent the last 20+ years handling claimant personal injury cases, I considered myself fairly high up on the list of those best prepared to attend a MedCo appointment. Surely this experience would count for something?
Since the introduction of MedCo, I have received, read and digested scores of MedCo reports. Time after time I have heard my clients complain about the limited amount of time they actually spent with the appointed expert and then the inaccuracies contained within the resulting report. I often found myself wondering how these reports can consistently be so inaccurate. “Is my client not communicating the relevant information effectively?” was my usual thought.
On receiving the details for my own MedCo appointment, I felt confident in my ability to communicate all relevant information in a clear, concise and accurate manner. I was anticipating the perfect medical report (if such a thing exists). Boy, was I grossly mistaken!
I duly attended my appointment at 10am on a Sunday morning at a local community centre. My appointment was the first of the day but I was soon joined by 6 others who I discovered had appointments at 10 minute intervals throughout the morning. Curiously, one person was also scheduled to see the MedCo expert at 10am. The first thing to happen was that I was handed a questionnaire to complete in advance of seeing the expert. The questionnaire was complex, requesting details of the accident, my injuries sustained, expenses incurred, etc., and a full medical history. In fact all the information you would expect to receive in a MedCo report. All these details had to be crammed into sections of around 2cm each. I felt under pressure to supply these details as my allotted appointment time had already past. Having to supply such details immediately, without notice was not conducive to accuracy or completeness. I simply didn’t have sufficient time to give my answers the necessary consideration. As I looked around the waiting room, my fellow appointees were, if anything, looking more perplexed as they discussed the best way to complete the questionnaire.
I was then called in to see the expert. It was only a brief visit, less than 5 minutes in total which included a cursory examination. As I left the community centre, I reflected on how unsatisfactory the whole experience was. However, I still had some faith in the process and my ability to communicate so I retained the expectation of at least a factually correct report. You can probably guess that it was not just my expectation that proved to be inaccurate. The report was so flawed it did not even contain my correct age. A previous accident which I estimated at being 8 years ago was given an exact date and a head injury I had sustained from impact with the car door was referred to as a ‘psychological’ injury. Interestingly the report cites the time I was with the expert as 15 minutes which would never have been the case as the appointments were at 10 minute intervals – and the list goes on. Needless to say, my Solicitor is now tasked with raising these numerous inaccuracies with the medical agency and reporting the matter to MedCo.
This experience has given me a valuable insight into what my clients face when attending such appointments. The process is, without doubt, designed to get clients seen and reports drafted in as short an amount of time as possible. In my experience this aim is preventing the production of accurate and meaningful reports. I now feel more strongly than ever that on each and every occasion we receive reports which our clients state are inaccurate we notify MedCo of this. Without high-lighting these issues, the Government will continue to announce the success of MedCo. Based on my own experience and the experiences of client after client, this process is blatantly not working either for the Claimant or their Solicitor. How much time and, therefore, profit is wasted in reverting to the medical agency with requests to amend these reports? These requests can, on occasion, be refused on the basis that they accurately reflect what the expert was told. Having witnessed how this information is obtained by means of an ineffective and confusing questionnaire (in my case) completed under pressure and not even referred to in the consultation, there is little doubt that a proportion of what is being reported will be inaccurate. Why can’t the questionnaire be sent with the appointment letter so the client has an opportunity to consider their responses?
My final reflection was that it is inevitable, given my experience, that Claimants find themselves facing allegations of dishonesty and fraud based on the information provided in the MedCo reports. As legal representatives of Claimants it has to be our duty to emphasise that all the information contained within their reports has to be 100% factually accurate before release. I suspect this means that more rather than less of the reports require amendment and we should now consider this the norm.
To summarise please ensure that your clients have a realistic expectation as to what to expect when attending one of these appointments, advise them as to the questions they will be asked so that they can find out the information beforehand, make sure they understand why their report has to be factually correct and finally please, please report any problems* you have with reports to MedCo. MedCo will only be able to tackle these issues if they are aware of them.
Shelyna Mariscal, author of ‘MedCo – a personal experience’ is a solicitor who has over 20 year’s experience in representing injured clients and is the MASS Regional Co-ordinator for East Anglia.
* http://www.medco.org.uk/home/contact-us/ – see ‘Feedback’ towards bottom of page