The importance of medical evidence in personal injury claims

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The Defendant had admitted liability following a road traffic accident in which the injured party suffered pain in his neck, knees and lower back as a result of said accident.  There was to be some deduction from the injured party's compensation as the Defendant was of the view that he was partially at fault.  This is known as contributory negligence.

However, the Defendant argued that the accident had not caused the injuries which were claimed.  It seems that the Claimant had attended his GP surgery on several occasions post accident but did not mention any of his symptoms for some considerable time and even then on separate occasions.  He had also sent an e-mail to his line manager stating that for over a month after the accident he had not noticed any pain. Medical evidence was conflicting. The judge was to decide quantum, i.e. how much would the injured party receive?

At first instance the judge took the injured party's explanation at face value.  His word was taken over medical evidence and the e-mail sent to his line manager.  The Defendant appealed. The appeal was allowed and the matter is now set down for re-trial in front of a different judge.  The judge at first instance, while able to accept his evidence, was required to explain why his evidence was preferred over the documentary evidence submitted.

This is a situation that we come across time and time again.  When someone is injured in an accident it is normal practice to seek medical advice.  If you do not and (in particular) if you happen to seek medical advice on other issues and fail to discuss injuries sustained in your accident, then it becomes extremely difficult to explain why.  Contemporaneous medical evidence is key evidence. A personal injury claim is not as simple as proving fault.  It is also proving that the fault caused the injury.  If that cannot be done, irrespective of the fact that fault may be proven, the claim will almost certainly fail.  

Deborah Blackmore

Chartered Legal Executive

Personal Injury team

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