Putting the claimant and their rehabilitation needs at the centre of the personal injury claims process
Written by Lee Martyniak, Chartered Legal Executive – Personal Injury, with supporting information provided by Nicola Martyniak – Case Manager/OT
It is all well and good obtaining high levels of compensation for clients. Millions of pounds of compensation is recovered each year on behalf of seriously injured claimants. That’s great, and it does, without doubt, change people’s lives. But it doesn’t tell the full story.
The claims process is so much more than that. The aim has to be to rehabilitate the client to their fullest potential. Some things money cannot buy. A claimant and their rehabilitation needs should be at the very centre of what we, as serious injury lawyers, aim to achieve. Money, in itself, will not stop pain or help alleviate the symptoms of an injury – physical or psychological. But the right rehabilitation, by the right experts and at the right time, will certainly help.
Early intervention is vital to the client’s long-term outlook. Often, there is a limited window of opportunity to start the process, and for them to receive the full benefit of rehabilitation. So how can serious injury lawyers ensure that this is dealt with as early as possible in the claim?
It is essential to get the right case manager on board right at the beginning of the case. Over time, an experienced serious injury lawyer will know immediately which case manager to call upon for a particular case. Good case managers are worth their weight in gold, often building up very close relationships with the claimant. At Fletchers Solicitors, we have built up a network of tried and tested case management companies, who we know we can call on for first class rehabilitative intervention.
Different types of injuries will require different case managers with expertise in that particular area. It is by no means a one size fits all decision; we tailor the rehab process to our client’s needs. What is right for one will not be right for another. We take into account the injury sustained, the personality of the client; age, family dynamic and location. The better the fit with the claimant and the case manager, the better the prospects of a strong relationship.
Rehabilitation is completely unique to the individual and their needs. The objective has to be to get the most from the relationship. Rehabilitation to one person, might mean getting back to work as a labourer; for another it might be being able to walk their dog. It is about returning the claimant to their ‘normal’ – or as close to it as can be accommodated with their injury. We must always bear in mind that what are often considered lesser injuries in terms of value, can have just as devastating an effect on somebody’s life as the higher value claims. It is essential to listen to the claimant and let them communicate what rehabilitation looks like to them as an individual. There is no point arranging programmes of treatment if it is not what they want or truly need.
At Fletchers, we seek to work with the defendant to move forward with our client’s rehabilitation as soon as possible. Often, when going out to visit clients at hospital, their first concerns are ‘When can I go home?’, or ‘When can I get back to work?’ or ‘Is everything going to be alright?’ They find themselves in a very vulnerable position and it is vital to be able to offer them reassurance that we will get them the very best treatment they need, and that we will act quickly to do that.
Very often, the possible monetary value of the claim isn’t a priority for them at that stage. It is extremely rewarding to meet clients at that early stage of the claim, when they are perhaps at their lowest point, and to be able to offer them hope and put their mind at rest.
Under the Rehabilitation Code 2015, the parties are encouraged to engage and work collaboratively. Funding can be provided for rehabilitation regardless of whether liability is resolved, and insurers will often be agreeable to fund treatment even when they have outstanding enquiries. It is so important to maximise the claimant’s recovery, even when liability issues are outstanding.
The benefits of early rehabilitative treatment
The benefits of early intervention with regards to rehabilitation are numerous and wide-ranging. These benefits include:
- Improved recovery times – Early methods of rehab such as physiotherapy often bring about increased range of movement in joints, improved recovery times and reduced chance of later complications.
- Increased independence – By engaging in rehabilitation at an early stage, the claimant often feels empowered that they are taking control of the situation, thus increasing their confidence and wellbeing.
- Reduced care needs – A claimant is often less likely to need long term care where there has been early rehabilitative treatment.
- Return to employment – There is a clear correlation between engagement in early rehabilitation and a claimant’s ability to return to work.
- Improved mental health – Early intervention, particularly psychological treatment, often brings about a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Reduced reliance on the NHS – Engagement in early rehab often results in less frequent visits to the GP and hospital at a later date.
The risks of rehabilitation being delayed
Where rehabilitation is delayed, there are clear detrimental effects on the claimant’s life.
- Increased risk of mental health problems – If a claimant is not able to access early rehabilitative treatment, particularly psychological treatment, there are often increased incidents of anxiety and depression.
- Relationship breakdown – An injury to a claimant can also affect the wider family as a result of care and assistance needs, including loss of income and psychological symptoms. All of these things commonly put a strain on relationships.
- Loss of employment – It is an unfortunate fact that the longer a claimant is off work, the higher the chance that their employer will terminate their contract of employment. Thus causing increased worry regarding finances.
- Deterioration of other joints and body parts – Injury to a particular body part can cause over-reliance on other parts of the body which overcompensate in their place. For example, an injury to the right knee could cause much more strain to the healthy left knee, causing early degeneration.
- Reliance on pain medication – If the claimant is having to take daily pain medication for a long period of time without any treatment, there is a risk that the claimant could become reliant on that medication, rather than engaging in treatment to help alleviate the symptoms.
At Fletchers, we always put the claimant at the centre of what we do. It’s part of our culture and central to our work. A big part of putting the claimant at the centre of the process, is ensuring that they have access to the best rehabilitation right at the beginning of the claim. By obtaining early rehabilitation for our clients, we hope to achieve the fullest, most timely and complete recoveries possible.