Medical and police records play an important role in any personal injury compensation claim.
They can support a person’s case in a number of ways and therefore can be of great evidential value.
In order to bring a successful compensation claim, a claimant is required to prove that the circumstances giving rise to their claim actually happened. Medical records can be helpful in showing a record of attending the doctor for treatment. They may also show evidence of subsequent symptoms.
The amount of any compensation awarded in a personal injury claim largely depends on the nature and seriousness of the injuries a claimant has suffered. It is for this reason that a medical report is a key piece of medical evidence in a personal injury claim.
As part of the personal injury claim process your solicitor will arrange for you to attend an appointment with an appropriate expert of their choosing.
The expert will usually consider all your medical records when preparing their report. Your medical records will assist the expert by providing information in relation to your health (which may include any pre-existing relevant conditions).
In some personal injury claims (particularly relevant in historic child abuse claims) where there has been a conviction police records will assist by recording complaints, investigation records, statements and details of any criminal proceedings.
Financial records (i.e records from The Department of Works and Pensions) may assist your solicitor with determining any financial losses you have suffered as a result of your injuries and in particular any loss of earnings.
Obtaining records: the process
Your solicitor cannot access your medical records without your authority. In most cases your solicitor will ask you to sign a document giving them permission to ask your medical attendants or the police for your records. In cases involving children the “litigation friend” will sign the document on the child’s behalf.
The BMA form of authority will be sufficient to allow your solicitor access to your medical records. The medical organisation holding your records will consider the request and whether they are able to release all or some of the records.
Generally, the medical organisation should release the records to you or your solicitor within 30 days. It is not unusual for organisations to experience delays in locating and/or preparing your records and may need an extension of time for complying with the request. If this is the case, they should notify you of this with their explanation of why the delay has occurred.
In most cases, a subject access form (which must be approved and signed by a claimant) will be sent to the appropriate police force with a request that the records be released.
The subject access form must be accompanied by photographic proof of ID (i.e a passport or driving licence) and proof of your address (i.e a utility bill). Both copies will need to be certified by your solicitor.
If you do not have sufficient identification documents your solicitor will be able to liaise with the relevant police force to find some form of appropriate identification.
Once the documentation has been submitted to the police the process should take no more than 30 days for the relevant police authority to respond. However, in some cases it has been known to take significantly longer for a number of reasons such as difficulty in locating the information.
It is unlikely that the police will release any information if it there is an ongoing criminal investigation.
The police will edit any records released so that any details about third parties are removed from the documentation shared.
Is there a fee to pay?
The General Data Protection Regulations and the Data Protection Act 2018 replaced the Data Protection Act 1998 on 25 May 2018. This means that medical records and other records should be provided free of charge. The only exception to this is if the request is found to be excessive (i.e making a second request for the same information with a short period of time).
It is not unusual for claimants to feel uncomfortable about others seeing their private records. A solicitor with expertise in these types of claim will understand this and reassure you that your records will be treated with the utmost respect and confidentiality and that the records will not be sent to any other parties without your prior consent. It is important to note that any relevant records will be disclosable to your opponent’s legal representatives under court rules.