Lawyers have called for the Rehabilitation Code to become compulsory after research showing that defence solicitors are failing to agree with their claimant counterparts over the rehabilitation of accident victims with brain injuries.
Two-thirds (66%) said they had dealt with defence solicitors who refused to use the Rehabilitation Code and a similar proportion (68%) with lawyers who rejected the recommendations of initial needs assessments.
Nearly nine in 10 (88%) claimant lawyers had dealt with defence solicitors who failed to respond to a request for rehabilitation within 21 days.
However, almost half of claimant partners (48%) believed there had been “significant advances” in the rehabilitation options available to brain injured patients over the last three years.
The survey by Exchange Chambers and charity Calvert Reconnections of 164 brain injury partners at claimant and defendant law firms across the country found that 70% believed the Rehabilitation Code should be made compulsory.
Bill Braithwaite QC, head of Exchange Chambers and adviser to Calvert Reconnections, said: “This research suggests that in many cases lawyers still cannot agree on the most obvious recommendations as a starting point.
“Delay is hugely damaging to anyone who has suffered a brain injury. Sensible dialogue on both sides would improve the problem as rehabilitation will only work at its best if both sides enter into it voluntarily.”
He described it as “very worrying” that so many defence solicitors refused to use the Rehabilitation Code and “extremely disappointing” that so many rejected the recommendations of initial needs assessments.
A large majority (81%) of brain injury partners said they believed the application process for interim payments under part 25 of the Civil Procedure Rules was “too costly and time consuming”.
Mr Braithwaite said he could not see an immediate solution to the problem.
“If the defendant chooses to resist an application for interim payment, there is no obvious alternative to the court process and that is inevitably slow. There is no obvious way to speed it up, partly because evidence has to be gathered on both sides and that takes time.”
Of the 48% of brain injury partners who believed there had been “significant advances”, the most popular advance was “greater co-operation by insurers”, cited by 56%.
This was followed by greater case manager expertise (50%), medical advances (44%) and a greater number of brain injury rehabilitation units now available (33%).
Mr Braithwaite commented: “One of the most heartening aspects of acquired brain injury rehabilitation is the increased understanding by insurers of its benefit.
“They have taken a more open-minded approach in recent years – for which they deserve credit.”
The vast majority of claimant partners (97%) said they believed there were not enough residential-based rehab units in the UK.
Only 30% said they never included outdoor activities in rehabilitation plans for brain injured patients, while 50% said they included them “sometimes”.
Calvert Reconnections is an intensive acquired brain injury rehabilitation centre, based in the Lake District.