Some Principles of the Medico-Legal Practice

Medico-legal work is diverse medical practice inculcating a legal lens to look at clinical cases. Medico-legal expert requires to have experience in the field of clinical practice and an understanding of medical-legal laws.

This blog covers challenges Medico-legal experts face and also some principles which should be kept in mind while medico-legal practice to overcome challenges and produce the clear, specific, accurate report. Medico-legal report is an evidence from a qualified and experienced medico-legal expert and is vital for the litigation of a client’s case.

Following are few principles medico-legal expert needs to follow:


Proper investigation in traffic accidents:

Traffic accidents are liable to misinterpretation of facts and even distortion of truth in court proceedings, hence need to be dealt with carefully. In personal injury cases such as traffic accidents, a medico-legal expert ought to look for a causative relationship between the incident and the client’s complaint. Personal injury cases require initial screening by an expert to determine the case before legal proceedings. Moreover, according to the Association of British Insurers, personal injury frauds have cost the British insurance industry more than a billion pounds a year.

Moral & Ethics:

For years lawyers have been selecting medical experts who can provide them with favorable medico-legal reports. In many cases, medical experts were challenged about changing the content of the reports after lawyers persuaded them. In cases of an actual addition of evidence it is reasonable to edit the report but changing reports just to favor lawyers and their clients is morally and ethically wrong. Medico-legal experts have to deal with such moral and ethical challenges, though such cases of intentional dishonesty are not in large number. Medical experts must demonstrate professionalism while acting as expert witnesses.


Assessing credibility & reliability of client’s statement

The client plays an important role in any case, and each case is highly dependent on the reliability and credibility of the client’s statement. A medical expert should pay attention to the consistency in the client’s statement and check its authenticity by other sources such as evidence, medical records, and statements of other witnesses. The client’s oral and written statements should be consistent and include medical and claim history in an elaborate manner.

Incidents psychologically impact people differently, hence there is a huge responsibility that some people tend to minimise events and some exaggeratedly present them but unconsciously. Being a medical expert you should be aware of the fact that whether it is a tendency to exaggerate or fundamental dishonesty to hide the truth. The credibility of the client’s statement is vital as it is the foundation of the claim and it is taken as objective evidence in litigation. Vague statements, changing of evidence, late submission of the claim, or pushing for an early settlement might be taken as signs of fraudulent or dishonest claim, though it varies from case to case.


Role of lawyers in medico-legal cases

Lawyers are expected to do everything in the best interests of their clients which introduce bias to the legal proceedings. Some lawyers are even motivated to win at any cost and employ dubious tactics for that. Being a medical expert one should have knowledge and understanding of legal processes as well and give an unbiased opinion.

Consider all range of opinions in medical negligence

In cases of medical negligence, medical experts also naturally have a bias, which can lead to quoting of only supporting point of views without considering other approaches. A medical expert should consider acceptable standards of care at that time, also a doctor should be willing to consider a range of opinions to provide logical analysis.

Medical experts often get caught out by accepting what the client states without checking the veracity of the client’s statements against contemporaneous medical records. Medical negligence cases are often matters of opinion in litigation and experts should take care of verifying information before reaching direct conclusions.

The above-mentioned points should be kept in mind for medico-legal cases. The role of medico-legal experts continues to evolve and sometimes litigation might become complex, but being a medical-legal expert one should be clear about legal processes, should be unbiased in every case, should look for various evidence, and consider different sources of information after verifying. These professional expertise are very vital in medical-legal cases as a medical witness and medical-legal reports created by an expert are key factors of cases and claims so they need to fully clear, not misleading or ambiguous.