Covid may lead to a delay in processing Personal Injury claims

10 July 2020

A Dublin based G.P said it would be very difficult for doctors to assess patients weeks or months after they suffered an injury.

Like all sectors, the legal world has had to adapt in light of the coronavirus crisis.

But there are mounting concerns among those involved in defending personal injury cases that the pandemic may give rise to exaggerated claims.

From virtual courtrooms to judgments delivered via YouTube, uncharted territory has been entered in a bid to maintain legal activity since the world went into lockdown.

However, some legal experts believe the chaos may provide an unwelcome opportunity for those with a history of bringing spurious injury claims.

New measures have been introduced by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board to help facilitate those who wish to make a claim during the lockdown restrictions.

One big change concerns the provision of a medical report when initiating an injury claim.

During normal times, it is standard procedure for someone making a claim to provide a medical report. However, this requirement has now been temporarily waived.

A spokesperson for the Injuries Board said “it would be inappropriate for medical examinations to take place at this time” as health facilities across the country “rightly prioritise” the response to Covid-19.

Instead, a letter must be given stating that a medical report has been commissioned for a later date. This means that a claimant may not be physically examined by a doctor until weeks or months after submitting their claim.

The nature and severity of the claims being brought will be difficult to determine from a medical assessment which is not undertaken until some time after the alleged incident occurs.

It could now be up to six months after an Injuries Board claim is lodged before a medical report is provided, and further down the track if we question people who we suspect may be making an exaggerated claim why they didn’t seek medical attention for such an extended period following the accident, the coronavirus can be legitimately used as an excuse.

The Injuries Board spokesperson added that even if medicals were possible, “sending in parties to medical facilities at the moment may put them at risk”.

Claimants will still have to supply medical reports and attend independent medical examinations after the government restrictions have been lifted.

While it is right for the Injuries Board to prioritise the health and safety of claimants and healthcare professionals, this change may inadvertently cause significant issues down the line.

This delay could lead to serious repercussions for those with genuine injuries and may be unable to undergo treatment in light of Covid-19.This could impede their recovery and extend their symptoms.

In personal injury claims there is a duty on the claimant to mitigate their loss but, in light of the current lockdown, this may not be possible, which could lead to a longer recovery time, which will ultimately result in greater awards.

While fewer people are driving and the majority of public places are now closed, people have up to two years to bring a personal injury claim.

Therefore, those who suffered injuries before the pandemic unfolded may only decide now to take legal action for accidents which happened months ago.

A Dublin based G.P  said it would be very difficult for doctors to assess patients weeks or months after they suffered an injury.

“It will be hard to provide a medical report based on what patients are telling you alone when you haven’t assessed them straight away. It will definitely provide for an interesting few months,” he said.

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