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Fresh surprises with each new season

SUMEET VOHRA reflects on the sometimes bemusing world of the personal injury expert

With the passing of each year inevitably comes time for reflection: what has passed and what will come to pass. For me the main theme for 2008 was great expectations: insurers’ expectations of the personal injury expert; the claimant’s expectation of the claims process; the expert’s expectation of their instructing party.

The insurers’ champion must surely be the bionic report – part human, part machine – generated by software with some expert input; a report that is better, faster and cheaper.

Like it or not, report writing software is here to stay; but is the human expert? How necessary is it that a qualified practitioner completes the tick boxes and selects from the drop down lists? In fact, could the claimants carry out this process themselves online, from the comfort of their own homes? Will personal injury solicitors become redundant when reports are read coded with a prognosis? Are the machines set to take over?

However, enough of apocalyptic catastrophising: claimants with their expectations can be a source of great joy.

A solicitor wrote to me a few weeks ago stating that their client (who had suffered a neck injury post-road traffic accident) wished to claim for the costs of being shaved by a barber for 29 days post accident. Would I support this?

Another asked if I would support their client’s purchase of a memory foam mattress, reiki massage treatment, a lavender bag and 15 months of gym membership for a back injury that had resolved after 10 months.

My understanding is that the purpose of compensation is to restore an injured party to their pre-accident state. My perception, however, is that some claimants would like this and a little extra luxury to boot. Is there anything wrong in wanting the odd little treat?

Being shaved is such a civilised concept, and what greater pleasure than a relaxing massage? Outrageous requests, no doubt, but what standards.
For the sake of my sanity, I consider it prudent to expect the minimum from instructing parties.

Not long ago I received a sharp letter from a medico-legal agency advising that the claimant’s forename and middle name on my report did not match those on their records and that I would need to correct my report. I telephoned to explain that the agency records were, in fact, erroneous and the claimant had advised me of his correct forename and middle name.

I was then quizzed as to whether the claimant had backed this up with formal identification. I replied in the affirmative, adding the somewhat obvious comment that the claimant probably did know his own name.

“Oh yes; I suppose so,” came the reply.

My PA struggled for weeks trying to contact a client for whom we had been sent a non-existent address, with no postcode and an incorrect telephone number. Repeated phone calls to the instructing party were fruitless and all we were able to establish was that they had no other contact details for the claimant.

When, in exasperation, we finally asked how the matter could be taken forward, we were reassured that the instructing party would write to the claimant and ask what their address was!

Indeed, we work within a field of unparalleled excellence.

In the current financial climate the likelihood, on the balance of probabilities and in my opinion, is that personal injury claims may be perceived as useful income. For that reason 2009 is, in my opinion, likely to be a busy year in the world personal injury.

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 June 2012 09:03