A year on through the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly all aspects of our daily lives have changed. It is still unclear how the pandemic might play out in 2021, but a year on, how has it affected personal injury claims and in particular the rehabilitation and support needs injured claimants?
The pandemic has notably affected the way in which claims are progressed, with courts only partially open, evidence-gathering restricted and rehabilitation limited as hospitals and private clinics under pressure. My colleague, Amanda Hopkins discussed this in detail back in April 2020.
As a solicitor representing clients who have suffered traumatic injuries, I have had to adapt to the current climate by embracing the use of technology to progress my client’s claims. This has generally worked well, but inevitably there have been some limitations.
Of significant importance to any client after suffering a traumatic injury is rehabilitation. It is well known that intensive rehabilitation after a serious injury maximises a patient’s recovery.
The key aim remains to ensure that there is continuity of rehabilitation and care where possible. Many of our clients are already very vulnerable and rely on the support that comes from their case managers and the care and treatment put in place for them. Some of these support packages were inevitably challenged at the start of the pandemic, putting additional pressure on family members to step in and support their loved ones.
During the onset of the pandemic rehabilitation has been able to progress virtually in some cases (for example, online remote sessions for psychotherapy and physiotherapy).
Solicitors and clients would agree that this is not ideal in the case of physiotherapy but usually some treatment is better than none at all. In practice, an assessment will be made via video link and an exercise programme is provided for the client to do at home.
This may work well for cases where clients have sustained minor injuries or for psychotherapy treatment but in a situation where a client has been severely injured, he or she requires hands on support which needs to be provided in person.
Over the two national lockdowns we have seen initially face to face rehabilitation coming to a halt with most therapies carried out remotely. However, as the pandemic has continued, therapists and clinics have robustly changed working practices and are able to provide much needed face to face treatment to patients.
The impact on NHS waiting lists means there is likely to be a greater emphasis placed by claimants on private treatment during the life cycle of their claim. Treatment will depend on what is reasonable in the circumstances of each case. However, given that treatment is not easily able to be obtained via the NHS at this moment in time, solicitors like myself have been able to progress our clients’ rehabilitation by sourcing private treatment.
Despite the changes and constant need to adapt, solicitors and insurers have generally been working jointly and collaboratively to provide injured claimants with access to rehabilitation.