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exclusive Compo culture: lawyers ask GP to omit client's history of claims

'It isn't good enough' - minister responsible for insurance reform calls on Law Society to investigate


Check-up: Some patients and their legal teams ask for reports from doctors to be altered. Picture posed.

Check-up: Some patients and their legal teams ask for reports from doctors to be altered. Picture posed.

Check-up: Some patients and their legal teams ask for reports from doctors to be altered. Picture posed.

Family doctors are facing pressure to bury patients' claims history, or to amend medical reports for personal injury claims, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Our undercover investigation has already exposed how some lawyers and GPs are fuelling compensation culture by actively encouraging patients to bring claims.

But we also found some GPs facing requests that are in contravention of the Medical Council stating no third party should influence the content of a doctor's medical report.

In one case, a firm requested a GP omit how a patient had previously made a number of claims for separate accidents. "Our client would appreciate if you could remove the reference to them often being the subject of claims," the letter states. The firm felt this wasn't "relevant" to the medical report.

We found that solicitors and patients have asked doctors to:

  • Increase the length of a prognosis;
  • Change the details of an accident - which the doctor refused to do;
  • Include symptoms not mentioned during previous consultations.

Junior Minister Michael D'Arcy is now calling on the legal and medical regulatory bodies to investigate.

During the Irish Independent investigation, it emerged that some doctors are recommending particular solicitor firms.

Meanwhile, solicitor firms in turn are directly referring clients to GPs and orthopaedic surgeons to have injury reports prepared.

But it also emerged that solicitors and patients can sometimes put pressure on doctors to amend medical reports for personal injury claims.

In one letter - seen by the Irish Independent - a patient said: "I am concerned that under comment/opinion/latest prognosis that you indicated that there would be full recovery within four to six weeks and in fact having seen you recently I outlined to you that the injury had not settled and I am in considerable pain with the injury."

In another letter, a solicitor asked a GP to add details to the medical report about the patient's symptoms, including how she couldn't wear high heels or walk to the shop unaccompanied.

"The issues in relation to the impact the injury is having on our client's day to day activities is of great significance in relation to the case..." the letter says.

"It is one of the areas that our client will be compensated by way of general damages so it is imperative that the impact is addressed and outlined in the medical report so that our counsel can assess the potential quantum of damages accurately."

One solicitor asked a GP to change the details of the accident, stating that their client had made an error during her medical consultation.

The GP refused, saying: "With respect… my medical notes make no reference to that. Thus I am unable to amend my medical report as requested."

A GP with more than 30 years' experience told the Irish Independent "Sometimes after we assess patients we get letters from the patients or their solicitors asking for us to include other issues that they forgot to mention during the original consultation.

"While I have seen a lot of genuine claimants, sometimes I have people limp into my office but walk perfectly out to their car."

A recent study of 100 patients from the Mater Hospital pain management service found more than 90pc of patients with whiplash attending a Dublin pain management clinic failed to return for additional treatment once their legal action was completed.

The Medical Council of Ireland says medical reports must be "relevant, factual, accurate and not misleading. Their content must not be influenced by financial or other inducements or pressures." When asked about some solicitors asking for reports to be amended, a spokesman for the Law Society said: "[We]cannot pre-judge any cases, complaints or individual solicitors and cannot legally provide specific answers to your questions."

The latest revelations come after an investigation by our undercover reporter.

She attended solicitors and GPs after filling out a form on a claims harvesting website.

At one stage the reporter was told it was "probably best to leave out" of the medical report that she suffered from back and neck stiffness prior to a "rear-ending accident".

A solicitor said: "You're still worth 10 grand" when the reporter asked what happens if she had fully recovered. The solicitor added: "If you get seven-and-a-half grand into your hand after all expenses… that's happy days."

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