Doctor ordered to pay legal costs
A doctor who, it is claimed, exaggerated medical evidence in a number of road traffic accident (RTA) whiplash cases is to pay estimated costs of £100,000 to insurer, Ageas and its solicitors, BLM.
In a legal first, Dr Grace Kerali, a GP medico-legal expert, is to pay the costs, starting with an initial £40,000 to Ageas.
At a trial held at Liverpool County Court on 3 November, Dr Kerali declined the opportunity to defend her own conclusions, competency and methodology in reaching much lengthier injury prognosis periods than her peers within the industry.
‘The Court order for a medical legal expert to pay costs sets a precedent and we hope it will discourage hyped up claims,’ said Andy Watson, chief executive of Ageas. ‘Disrupting Dr Kerali’s medico-legal work provides definite financial benefit to us, customers, and the wider insurance industry, especially given the fact that, on her own evidence, she was preparing up to 2,000 medical reports per year.’
Ageas’s victory came about when its lawyers, BLM, used claimants as a test case for Dr Kerali’s medical reporting. The couple had filed a claim after being in a RTA on 5 February 2014 but, at trial, they abandoned Dr Kerali’s reports and requested a different expert assessment. Dr Kerali’s stated opinion after examining both claimants six weeks after the accident was that both the people’s whiplash injuries would recover by 14-16 months post accident.
In the course of the claim BLM and Ageas submitted evidence that Dr Kerali’s reports were either misleading or inaccurate. A review of more than 1,000 cases involving soft-tissue whiplash injuries was conducted by Ageas in the reports by Dr Kerali, the average prognosis from recovery from whiplash injuries was 14 months whereas that of hundreds of her peers during the same period was eight months. In the 126 cases involving Dr Kerali no adult claimant received a prognosis of less than 11 months unless they had already recovered by the date of examination. It followed that a claimant’s average damages in cases involving Dr Kerali was significantly higher than cases involving her peers.
‘The amounts being claimed in damages and treatment based on cases where Dr Kerali was the medico-legal expert were huge, in some cases easily tripling what we would expect to see,’ said Ruth Graham, partner at insurance and risk law specialist, BLM. ‘When the effects of whiplash are exaggerated, it means the insurance industry can’t accurately price risk and the price of premiums goes up for everyone.’
Ageas is aware of other courts already striking out her evidence as a result of this test case.