The amount of compensation awarded in a successful personal injury claim depends largely upon the nature and seriousness of the injuries you have sustained. A medical assessment of your injuries will be undertaken by an independent medical expert who will base their findings on that assessment as well as on any relevant medical history recorded in your medical records (e.g. GP, hospital and treatment notes). It is therefore normal for your solicitor to obtain copies of your medical records in order to send them on to the independent medical expert.
Your solicitor will then provide a valuation of your claim for pain suffering and loss of amenity based on the medical expert’s findings.
Your solicitor will apply for a copy of your medical records and send a copy to the medical expert who will receive instructions to examine you and prepare a report detailing your injuries.
Your medical records form an important part of the expert's assessment as they will need to identify any entries which are relevant to the injury for which you are claiming compensation.
For example, if you are claiming compensation for a neck injury it is likely that any previous entries in your GP notes relating to other previous neck injuries will be relevant for the purpose of compiling the comprehensive medical report. It may be that a previous neck injury has left you more vulnerable to subsequent injuries and, whilst this may not affect the amount of compensation you receive, it would be classed as a material factor as far as the medical evidence is concerned so would need to be referred to in the experts report.
Sometimes the entries in your medical records that detail your attendance after the accident may assist in proving your claim, if there is ever a dispute over the circumstances of the accident, or over the extent of your injuries. If your solicitor believed it would assist in proving your case to send copies of any relevant medical record entries to your opponent, as well as the medical expert, your solicitor would advise you of this.
If you refuse to authorise release of your medical records to your solicitor, your claim may be significantly hindered. The other side's legal representative may consider that you have 'something to hide' - i.e. some material fact in your medical history that you do not wish to be disclosed. This may lead to doubt being cast on the authenticity of your claim.
However, even if you do not feel completely at ease disclosing your medical records you should take comfort in the fact that you will have entered into a client confidentiality agreement with your solicitor, meaning that any personal information (including certain parts of your medical records, if you wish) cannot be disclosed without your specific consent. It may be the case that you can specify that only parts of your medical history that are relevant to your current injuries be referred to in the medical report. This may happen as a matter of course but if you feel strongly about not having certain parts of your medical notes disclosed, you should discuss your concerns with your solicitor.
Ultimately, the medical report forms the basis upon which your claim for pain, suffering and loss of amenity is valued. Your solicitor will also use this report to compare your case with previously settled cases where the injuries suffered were similar to your own and took a similar amount of time to recover. It is therefore important that the medical report is as comprehensive and accurate as possible if your claim is to be valued correctly.
Medical negligence claims follow a similar process to most other kinds of injury claims, but your medical records (from your general practitioner, hospital, treating physician etc.) will need to be obtained first and foremost to investigate any misdiagnosis or negligent medical acts.
Various medical experts will then be instructed by your solicitor to consider whether the treatment you received was negligent, and if so how it has effected you.