Lead Article – October 2020


Dealing with the Belligerent Plaintiff

I am genuinely sympathetic towards Plaintiffs who are obliged to present for medicolegal assessments. With rare exceptions, all have been injured. They believe that the injury has not been their fault and that the suffering that has ensued deserves recognition and compensation. They are often angry, aggrieved and desirous of inflicting some form of punishment upon the perpetrator.

Whilst all of these emotions are understandable, they do combine to create some difficulties, especially at the beginning of the consultation.

Plaintiffs who have been referred by their own Solicitor are usually less volatile than those who are attending on the instructions of the Defendant’s Counsel. This latter group assumes that I “work for the other side”. This additional misconception simply adds fuel to the emotional fire that is already smouldering.

I do my best to dispel the discomfort the Plaintiff experiences. I do understand that the entire saga is unpalatable and that the end point is often not yet visible. Spending the next hour or so with me is something that he or she could well do without.

So how do I do it? I rely upon courtesy, kindness and transparency. At the outset, I acknowledge the position in which the Plaintiff has found him or herself. I explain my role as an independent observer, beholden to no-one. I sometimes even share my own past as a medicolegal Plaintiff.

Quite obviously, I am not always successful. My goal however is to have an angry Plaintiff leave happy. In fact, some of them go so far as to shake my hand and thank me for the experience. To me, that is success!

Mind you, the transient warmth may dissipate when a copy of my report is received…