With a client’s permission, I occasionally post an anonymised case study after a claim has settled if there are features of the claim that I believe may be of interest. However, it is rare for me to feel the need to write about a claim that not only hasn’t settled, but where I was only instructed last week!
The vast majority of people who contact us suffering chronic pain have been poorly represented. However, the case of Emma (not her real name) is shocking in that I have rarely come across a situation where somebody has been so badly let down by both the legal and medical professions.
Emma was involved in an accident at work almost 2 years ago. Her employer quickly admitted liability for causing Emma’s accident. As a result of the accident she sustained a fracture to her right (dominant) wrist. As might be expected, her wrist was immobilised in a plaster cast and the prognosis was initially very positive. However, a week or two before the plaster cast was removed, she started to experience a burning pain in her hand and forearm, which also started to sweat, even on a cold day.
After the plaster cast was removed, the symptoms became worse, with her forearm and hand starting to swell and becoming extremely sensitive to touch, reaching a point where she couldn’t even bear to wear long sleeved clothing.
At the orthopaedic outpatient clinic she was diagnosed as suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). However, due to what has been described as “an administrative error”, no referral was ever made to the pain clinic at the hospital. Rather, her GP prescribed her ever stronger drugs, but failed to chase up the pain clinic referral or to make their own referral.
As time progressed, Emma’s symptoms deteriorated further and she started to develop painful contractures in her hand, which have had a clawing effect on her fingers.
Whilst all of this medical mismanagement was continuing, Emma had contacted a national law firm whose advert she had seen in the media. Despite the diagnosis of CRPS and the clearly devastating effect the condition was having upon every aspect of her life, the national law firm “processed” her claim into an online claims portal for low value, fast turnaround claims!
Seemingly oblivious to her condition, they then proceeded to refer her to a retired GP for a medical report. This doctor was not even provided with copies of Emma’s medical records. However, the doctor recommended that a further report should be obtained from an orthopaedic surgeon.
Emma says that by that time, the fact that her claim wasn’t settling quickly seemed to annoy her solicitor and she was made to feel like a nuisance whenever she telephoned for an update.
The report from the orthopaedic surgeon concluded that “this has now developed beyond the orthopaedic sphere and consideration should be given to obtaining a report from a consultant in pain medicine.”
However, remarkably, instead of doing just that, her solicitor advised her that she should consider settling her claim immediately, despite the absence of treatment and a settled long term prognosis for her condition! Fortunately, at that point Emma took the decision to change solicitors.
Whilst we now have the opportunity of salvaging her claim, in terms of Emma’s health, I can’t help but worry that her lack of treatment and the resultant entrenchment of her condition now means that the possible benefit of any future treatment may have been severely compromised.
If these issues sound familiar to you, we’re always happy to talk to people informally and in absolute confidence. Our telephone number is 01225 462871. Sometimes we are unable to help directly but, given our special interest in cases involving chronic pain, we may be able to offer guidance to you and/or your solicitor.