Challenges with Obtaining Good Medico-Legal Opinions
8 Feb, 2021, 2:31 PM
(5mins reading time)
Medico-legal cases are rarely clear cut. Lawyers often have to collect and sift through huge volumes of complicated information, including lengthy medical records and expert opinions, before they can even advise a client whether they have a strong case. Even when the client’s case is strong, opposing medical opinions are undoubtedly presented in court and must be challenged. To give clients the best chance of success and improve settlement rates, it is important for lawyers fighting these cases to have efficient processes in place, including obtaining a good medico-legal report. In this article, we talk about some of the most common challenges attorneys and law firms face in obtaining a strong medico-legal report.
What is a Good Medico-Legal Report?
A medico-legal report is the case history of a person’s medical care, requested by an attorney, insurer, or law enforcement agency. It is viewed by a diverse, non-medical audience and used as evidence in court. A medico-legal report is subjected to close scrutiny, and therefore, must be prepared with extreme care.
A good medico-legal report relies on medical facts present in the records and not on the treating physician’s memory. These medical facts are presented in chronological order and include the presenting history, examination, investigations, diagnosis, treatment, and the patient’s current condition. It also includes the report writer’s expert medical opinion about the standard of care offered to the patient.
For a medico-legal report to withstand scrutiny in court, it should be honest and accurate, it should contain verified information, and it should not omit any relevant information. The documents should be prepared in a reasonable timeframe. Attorneys who need medico-legal reports for their clients often face difficulties in obtaining these reports.
Common Difficulties in Obtaining a Good Medico-Legal Opinion
Several road blocks prevent attorneys from obtaining strong medico-legal opinions. The first and most important one is finding medical experts who can explain all the material facts of the case and give their qualified opinion. Each opinion expressed in the medico-legal report must be supported by a reason. If any question is not within the report writer’s area of expertise, it needs to be stated as such. The opinion expressed in the medico-legal report must be referenced to medical literature and other supporting material. It is worth noting that the opinions expressed in the medico-legal report are often challenged and tested in court. For the report to stand up to scrutiny, it’s important to have real experts who have considerable experience in their field and can withstand cross-examination.
Obtaining Medical Records
Australian health services can deny access to medical records on several grounds, including the plea that such information would pose a serious threat to the life or health of an individual. What’s more, even when medical records are available, they are often complicated and voluminous, which can make it challenging to collect and organize relevant information that demonstrates negligence. Reviewing and retrieving medical records and wading through them to draft summaries can take up a fair amount of time – something attorneys preparing for litigation don’t always have.
Preparing a Timely Medico-Legal Report
One of the key challenges for law firms fighting medico-legal cases is preparing a report in a timely manner. This is a time-consuming exercise that requires significant expertise. Attorneys representing patients in medico-legal cases must prepare a strong report to ensure success and higher settlements. As noted, a good medicolegal report includes a thorough review of the patient’s medical records in chronological order, expert medical opinions, narrative summaries, synopsis of medical care, medication charts, and billing information. All this must be completed in a reasonable timeframe for the report to support the case.
Assessing Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
One of the biggest challenges in winning a medico-legal case is assessing damages. A patient fighting a medico-legal case is almost always suffering from a medical condition. Sometimes, negligence is alleged. Therefore, lawyers representing the patient must prove that the patient’s medical problems are a result of negligence. Only then will it lead to adequate compensation. A strong medico-legal report can support the patient’s case when there is an allegation of negligence. However, to accomplish this, the report must be prepared carefully with expert opinions to support the claim.
Getting Expert Opinions in Medico-Legal Cases
Almost every medico-legal case requires supportive evidence from credible, independent medical experts. The defendants, i.e., practitioners and health care systems, often present opposing professional opinions that support them. It can be challenging for attorneys fighting medico-legal cases to find experts who are willing to become involved in litigation and side with the patient. A big challenge in these cases is finding medical experts who have enough experience to be taken seriously in court. Besides, even when available, their services can be quite expensive, unless they have tied up with an advisory firm.
Benefits of Medicolegal Advisory Firms
A medicolegal advisory firm can help attorneys fighting medico-legal cases give their clients the best chance of success. The advantages of hiring a medico-legal consultancy include:
Expertise in retrieving medical records, assembling them in chronological order, reviewing the records for relevant information, and summarizing medical reports.
Providing a compelling narrative summary of the patient’s care to highlight the main points of the case.
Identifying critical medical issues that need to be clarified.
Conducting detailed searches of medical literature to support the client’s case.
Obtaining expert opinions from a panel of independent physicians from various medical specialties.
Improving settlement rates through fact-based medical documentation.
Providing expert opinions at affordable costs.
Reducing litigation costs through screening of cases.
Preparing medico-legal reports in a reasonable timeframe.
If you are an attorney representing a client who needs a medico-legal report to present in court, hiring our medicolegal advisory firm in Australia will allow you to focus on important case-related matters such as demonstrating liability, causation, and damages, while we take care of preparing the report. This will not only help you achieve cost efficiency but will also save you a significant amount of time. We adhere to the highest levels of confidentiality and security to protect your client’s privacy and medical records.
Allow our highly trained staff to help you save time, money, and effort by preparing a medicolegal report for your client. Call us today to learn more about how we can benefit your law firm.