Covid 19 – Its Impact On Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

In January 2020, the news broke about COVID-19. Steadily over the next few weeks, we watched the news with interest and horror as we witnessed countries being crippled by what we now refer to as the Pandemic. I’m sure some of us watched News at 10 with huge sympathy for our friends around the world but with a hint of scepticism and the British “stiff upper lip” syndrome of it won’t happen to us!

I think it was Hugh Grant’s character in About a Boy who used the phrase “I am an Island”. Well COVID–19 didn’t seem to care we are an Island and we eventually were added to the list of countries significantly impacted by COVID-19 and the Pandemic.

Impact on the legal world was felt almost immediately and the impact was hugely felt in Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury Claims. On the lower value claims commonly seen in the RTA portal, it was feasible for clients to be examined remotely by experts. In fairness, most of my clients adapted to the “remote” way of thinking. Some clients for the first time would become familiar with “Face time”, WhatsApp” video calls and “Zoom” and once we all got used to the “home working” and “remote examinations” and as we became more organised, the wheels of litigation were able to roll again.

 

However, one of the areas of Litigation where the wheels were firmly clamped to a standstill was Clinical Negligence and Serious Injury.

When instructed by a client who has suffered catastrophic injury whether, through accident or clinical negligence, there is no substitute for visiting clients in their home to see first-hand how their life-changing injuries are impacted by their home environment.

I am sure medical experts who are routinely instructed in cases of the utmost severity will agree, some instances of injury are not suitable for a “Zoom” call, and with the client often only having access to a mobile phone to conduct the call.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise COVID-19 has had a significant impact on Clinical Negligence and Serious Injury litigation by acting as a “handbrake” preventing those litigation wheels from rotating at the speed once taken for granted.

Thankfully, whilst the Pandemic is still with us (and I suspect will still be) in the headlines for the foreseeable, the “hand brake” has now been gently lifted and we are starting to see the wheels of litigation gathering momentum. Solicitors, Counsel and Medical Experts are now able to see clients in person which I am sure most Practitioners will agree is not only beneficial to the claims process but also brings some relief from what I personally considered the monotonous doldrums of home working.

 

One benefit I have to admit was my daily routine of watching Bargain Hunt whilst eating lunch. I now know my Art Nouveau from my Art Deco!

 

A significant development was the introduction of the COVID-19 Clinical Negligence Protocol 2020. This was developed to assist the parties to clinical negligence claims to adopt a pro-active but yet sensible approach to the claims process now firmly being inadvertently steered by the hands of COVID-19.

The protocol advocated the need for a moratorium on limitation with an extension of 3 months after the protocol period had been eclipsed. The press release advocated the need for co-operation between the parties on issues such as interim payments and where possible, utilising what has now been elevated to one of the cornerstones of social interaction, the “Zoom” meeting for medical examinations.

 

Google is a Trademark of that well-known internet search engine. From that trademark, we now have the verb “Googling” listed in our Dictionary – “to search the internet for information about (a person, topic, etc.):”

How long will it take for the Dictionary to define “Zooming” as a verb “to interact online with a person/persons”?

I started my Legal career around the time of the Woolf Reforms which led to the Civil Procedure Rules 1998. I had the short-lived experience of the landscape pre- Woolf and I remember a colleague at that time sitting in his office, his head supported by his hands with a look of despair and frustration etched across his face. I peeked around his ajar door to enquire the source of his frustrations to be met with – “How does Lord Woolf expect us to deal with this?!

Well, I think we will now all agree the CPR is recent proof the Legal world can brush itself down, adapt and move forward and the COVID-19 Pandemic has shown this to be true once again!!.

 

Nick Berry is head of Clinical Negligence & Serious Injury – Farimont Legal. If you need advice or assistance please do not hesitate to contact Nick or his team on 01204 866 597 or email nick@fairmontlegal.co.uk

Doctor facepalming after looking at an xray
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