Saturday 17 August 2019

Judge hits out at lack of medical evidence for personal injury cases: 'It's got out of hand'

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Tom Tuite

A JUDGE has hit out at the lack of medical evidence in doctors’ reports for personal injury cases and said it has “got out of hand”.

At Dublin District Court’s civil list today, Judge Michael Coghlan said a truck could be driven in through the gaps in a medical reports furnished in one case.

They formed part of a claim for compensation brought by a teenage girl arising from a minor road traffic accident between two cars in January 2017.

The teenage girl, a minor, had sued through her mother.

Counsel told the court the girl went to her doctor two days later suffering from a headache and she was advised to rest.

A week later she went back to the doctor who noted she had complained of lower back pain and stiffness and “violent neck pain”. There was no bruising.

Counsel said the girl had attended 10 appointments with her GP and no treatment was advised.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board had offered €10,000 which was accepted.

Judge Coghlan was asked to approve the offer.

The judge said in the case before the court reports did not say the reason why the girl had gone to the 10 appointments with her doctor. It would be most appropriate for the GP to have set out the specific complaints, the judge said.

"Did she go to the GP because she had flu, or an orthopaedic problem? It may be irrelevant that she went to the doctor," he said.

He described the award as highly generous but there was no empirical evidence of any complaint of an orthopaedic matter, nor recommendations by the GP of physiotherapy or relieving exercises.

He said there was "whacking great gap you could drive an oil truck through".

He could not make an informed ruling about the 10 visits to the doctor when there was "not a scintilla of evidence" about what they related to, he said.

He told counsel he wasn’t shooting the messenger but he wanted other lawyers to be aware.

It was happening in various cases that have come before the court in which there was little or no evidence of treatment, save for saying, about the patient, "she tells me this, he tells me that". That was of no benefit, Judge Coghlan said.

He approved the offer of €10,000 as well as €1,050 in expenses. He directed that the girl's award was to be paid into court funds on her behalf until she reaches full age.

The district court can award up to 15,000 in damages in a personal injuries action.

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