Carpenters Group's Ann Allister featured in MASS Insight Magazine

18 September 2020


Video Consultations: The Way Forward?

It has been said that the coronavirus pandemic has been an accelerant of change, rapidly advancing trends that may perhaps have always happened, but at an advanced pace.

A recent conversation with a neuro-rehabilitation consultant echoed this. He said that Covid 19 had made the NHS jump in technological terms by 20 years. What would have taken years to implement happened within months. He did not see that they would go back to the ‘old ways’ of all clinics being in person. It was likely that many appointments would remain remote and only where face to face consultation were required or where a patient could not deal with technology that these would happen in person.

I certainly hope that video consultations are the future for medico- legal assessments in serious injury cases. I also hope that we do not move back to the ‘old ways’ of litigation and that some of the positive developments will adapt to the new world.

There are benefits to both defendants and claimants in video consultations. Early assessments can be undertaken where logistically the claimant may perhaps not be able to travel due to their injuries. This assists the claimant in not putting them through unnecessary stress and pain. It assists the expert, as they do not have to factor a day away from their clinics to do home visits, which leads to earlier assessments and information being available. Early assessments allow insurers to set reserves accurately and for claimants to have the crucial input of specialist experts in the rehabilitation package to ensure recovery is maximised with the right treatment at the right time.

Our experience is that all specialities are offering remote assessments with the exception of neuro-psychologists; they are offering remote first assessments but the neuro-psychological testing takes place in person, so we currently are arranging split assessments, the history and the consultation with the claimant is happening remotely with the testing to follow in person with Covid 19 safety measures. This is working well and claimants are finding it less stressful than a 4-6 hour assessment in a single sitting.

There do not seem to be any downsides to remote assessments but you have to be alert to the issues around who has access to the recordings in remote assessments and when.

Currently there is no protocol in place to control what part of any recording of an assessment will play in proceedings. It is important, that what happens to the recording is agreed before the assessment and is part of the route mapping between the parties as to how the litigation is to be conducted.

There is no reason you can’t agree before the assessment that there be recordings, with access to the
recordings being limited to only the expert as an aide memoire and agreeing that the recording only comes into play with either side’s solicitor seeing the recording if the Claimant disputes a factual statement made by the expert in their report.

Recording of assessments has been commonplace with pain experts for many years and the parties should not be afraid to embrace technology, but it is important that this does not become another avenue for defendants to attack genuine claims or that you end up in litigation over the status of the recording. Currently recordings are admissible as evidence but become discoverable when the parties disclose a report (see the case of McDonald v Burton and Mustard v Flower).

A good expert and an honest claimant should not be afraid of embracing technology and doing away with covert recordings. This is one advancement made under the duress of the pandemic that I hope we can all embrace.

About the author

Ann Allister Technical Director, Serious Injury

Ann Joined Carpenters Group back in 2003 and has experienced a wealth of change across the business. She has over 21 years’ experience in the industry and specialises in Serious Injury.

Ann is a Trustee of Headway Wirral, an accredited Law Society Personal Injury Panel member, is a Headway and UKABIF specialist brain injury panel solicitor and was the UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum Lawyer of the year 2015

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