A medical (or other) report is often the most important evidence in a claim for compensation. Receiving a request for a report adds to the workload of already busy health professionals. This report, however, can often make the difference in the success of a claim. It can also strongly influence the amount of compensation recoverable.
The Rules of the Court provide that evidence from a health professional (or other expert) must be set out in a report if any opinion from that health professional is to be admitted as part of the evidence in a case. In most cases, it is not necessary for a Court to determine claims. Reports from health professionals are crucial, however, as part of negotiations to try and resolve matters without the Court’s involvement. As a health professional, it is important that you understand there is always the possibility that your report will end up being read by a Judge or Magistrate. Therefore, care should always be taken about what is included in the report.
A good lawyer will always ask questions that are directly relevant to the issues and claims in the case. It is essential that you answer these questions, and do so as comprehensively as possible. You will almost certainly receive a further request if you do not answer all questions, which will be even more time consuming. Furthermore, if you are uncertain about a question, I encourage you to ask the lawyer about it so that you are clear what is needed and can answer accordingly.
You should also appreciate that volunteering information in a report, which is not directly related to the questions asked, may not necessarily be relevant or helpful to your patient. The whole report must be used – it is not possible for lawyers to pick and choose parts, or certain answers to questions.
The other important thing to know is that under the ACT law a report from a health professional will almost certainly have to be disclosed to the relevant insurance company or other party – whether it assists a claim or not. In other words, in most cases, lawyers are not able to choose what reports to disclose.
As with everything, report writing is very much about communication. I would encourage you to contact the lawyer requesting the report if there is any confusion or if there are any issues you want to discuss before preparing a report. I again emphasise how important a report can be, and we are always very grateful for the assistance you can provide to your patient – our client – in preparing such reports.