Identical medical reports – honest and coincidental, or a mere ‘copy and paste’?
The factual accuracy of a medical report is vital. It is the basis upon which a compensator will formulate an offer and make a compensation payment. If the information contained in the medical report is wrong then a claimant may be compensated where there is no basis, or over compensated.
The Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims underlines this:
The claimant must check the factual accuracy of any medical report before it is sent to the defendant. There will be no further opportunity for the claimant to challenge the factual accuracy of a medical report after it has been sent to the defendant.
It is not uncommon for occupants in one vehicle to all pursue compensation injury claims following an accident. Each of those claimants will have an appointment with a medical expert, often on the same day, consecutively and accompanying each other.
There are instances where the medical reports produced following those appointments are all but identical. Identical medical reports should set some alarm bells ringing that perhaps the information presented is not correct and the claims require further investigation.
The reports often all have the same:
- Sites of injury, often multiple sites of injury
- Severity of injury
- Onset of pain and discomfort
- Loss of amenity
- Pre-existing conditions or absence of
- Accident history or lack of
- Prognosis for a recovery – often for lengthy periods
- Recommendations for extensive and expensive rehabilitation such as physiotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy.
All of that is in the context of the claimants being different ages and having different medical histories. In addition, each will have been sitting in a separate positions in the vehicle, possibly looking in various directions on impact and with their arms in different positions. All of those factors you would expect to affect the nature and extent of soft tissue injuries.
On any analysis, it difficult to understand how several claimants could have reported exactly the same injuries, exactly the same effects and then the medical expert reached precisely the same conclusion for each.
The High Court took issue with this very point:
“[the medical expert’s] reports were extremely formulaic and did not adequately distinguish between the two Claimants. In both reports he used similar wording ("these are now mild to moderate and intermittent) and, most importantly, he made identical recommendations for physiotherapy (eight sessions) and gave an identical prognosis (for resolution between 12 and 14 months from the date of the accident).”
Mr Justice Martin Spencer, Richards & Anor v Morris 
The reasons why the medical reports are identical is open to question and in those circumstances, the basis for the medical expert’s conclusions will need to be challenged:
- The claims may be late notified and/or the medical expert has nothing to go on beside the information provided by a claimant
- It could be that a medical expert is relying on a questionnaire completed by a claimant or by those enabling the claim, rather than taking a proper verbal history
- The claimants could be repeating a rehearsed script to the medical expert.
A claimant has to prove a claim for injury and this becomes significantly more challenging where the factual basis of a medical report is in doubt.
With the pending civil justice reforms, the introduction of set tariffs for compensation and the rise in the small claims track for road traffic accident claims to £5,000, there will be motivation for some claimants and those enabling claims to extend the period and extent of injuries. It is not difficult to imagine several identical medical reports all confirming that each claimant had lengthy whiplash injuries.
As ever, a case-specific decision must be made by identifying any areas of concern and then deciding if an investigation is necessary. The issue of formulaic medical reports and the factual basis behind those reports is taken seriously by the courts. It is potential grounds for a fundamental dishonesty finding when properly challenged.