The Law Society has joined forces with the Association of British Insurers and the British Medical Association to remedy accusations by doctors that some solicitors are taking up too much of their time.
They are set to publish joint guidelines defining the circumstances in which lawyers can refer claimants in personal injury (PI) cases to doctors. Doctors say their role is to treat patients and not to see patients just because they need a note of their injury. The Cabinet Office estimates that 202,000 appointments and 5,000 hours of GP's time could be saved if lawyers were more cautious about referring their clients. The concerns were raised in a Cabinet Office paper, 'Reducing General Practitioner Paperwork', which says the aim is to "minimise the number of referrals to GPs for the sole purpose of recording an injury". Anna Rowland, policy litigation adviser of the Law Society's Civil Litigation Committee, believes that some visits may be unnecessary. "There may be cases where they're not injured and the lawyer who refers is just being a bit overcautious, or an experienced lawyer who just sends anyone. However, as a rule, solicitors don't send anyone on the off-chance because they don't want to put unnecessary pressure on the NHS," she said. The Law Society also believes it is wise that lawyers should err on the side of caution, because certain injuries such as whiplash do not evince themselves until later on. Not referring in such cases means courts will argue that, as the claimant was not referred to a GP at the time of the accident, the injuries were not serious, and that the injuries that later appeared were not related to the accident.