Lead Article – November 2018


What Does The Future Hold?

The personal injury and medical negligence scenes have been evolving slowly but inexorably over the last three or four decades.

Whereas the liaison between the medical and legal professions was once loose and relatively unpredictable, the entire industry has become tighter, better controlled and more certain.

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I remember one of my old mentors. I won’t mention his name but when he was 76 years of age, I was 38 years old. I was exactly half his age. We wandered down from Wickham Terrace to Tattersall’s Club for lunch one day. He had a very keen interest in medicolegal matters and was probably the doyen in this city at the time. As usual, we would always express some opinion on the percentage impairment exhibited by an injured plaintiff. My old mentor decried the use of any form of reference text or scale. He said that he simply had “a feeling” as to what the impairment was likely to be and that was the percentage that he nominated. He did recall being challenged occasionally in Court by a cross-examining Barrister and sometimes by the Bench but he relied upon his presence, his persona, his reputation and his charisma to carry the day.

Whilst I loved him with all my heart and greatly respected him as a mentor, I am not sorry to see that things have changed. Transparency and predictability for all are to be lauded.

The last decade or so has been particularly more efficient with the CLA and the PIPA. WorkCover introducing the greater than 5% permanent impairment rule has also been of some assistance in weeding out those claims that are probably not meritorious.

There has been much greater specialisation by legal firms in the personal injury sphere and whilst there are still some conglomerates dealing with both sides of the scale, it is now much more common to have firms dealing exclusively with either plaintiff or defendant work. The entire industry has become much more efficient.

Whilst these evolutionary changes will continue, I do see some much greater changes on the horizon. For example, legislative changes will be required for personal injuries sustained in driverless car collisions. The almost ubiquitous use of closed circuit television surveillance cameras has also laid bare false claims of injury mechanisms. Moreover, as the immigration debate hots up and in the event that our political masters relax border controls, as has happened in Germany, our markets could become flooded with unskilled and theoretically unprotected workers.

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Workplace health and safety regulations are already extremely stringent. Some would say, too much so.

However the pendulum swings, there will be a place for you and me. Community members will require advocates, insurers will require some form of defence and medicolegal experts will still be called upon to assist with the clinical analyses.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey so far. I hope you have too. I genuinely look forward to the next decade or two.