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Solutions for challenging and complex medico-legal cases: QF32

April 19, 2016  |  Posted by: Sam Menteith

A challenging and complex medico-legal case needs the right people to achieve a successful outcome. Whether it’s a class action or single case, ASSESS Medical Group can provide you with the solutions.

At 10.01 am on November 4 2010, Flight QF32 was climbing through the sky at 2,000 metres after taking off from Singapore on its way to Sydney. Suddenly an explosion shattered Engine Number 2 of the Airbus A380, the largest passenger plane ever built. Hundreds of pieces of shrapnel ripped through the wing and fuselage. The lives of the 469 passengers and crew on board were immediately placed on a knife edge.

Others may have panicked – but the flight crew, led by Captain Richard Champion de Crespigny, calmly considered what to do. The plane was still flying. The question was: Could they land it and get everyone off safely?

With vital flight systems and back-ups destroyed and degraded, Captain Champion de Crespigny quickly understood that a methodical approach was the best way to manage this highly challenging and complex situation.

QF32 flew in a holding pattern for the next two hours while multiple checks were conducted until it was decided they could land the plane. Even once they’d landed, an inability to shut down one of the four engines and fuel spilled on the tarmac meant it took two more hours to safely disembark everyone. Understandably, many of those on board QF32 experienced psychological trauma.
As a result, 150 passengers and crew joined in a class action to sue Rolls Royce, the maker of Engine Number 2, which an air safety investigation had already concluded had a faulty engine oil feed pipe that led to the explosion.

With so many people suing, producing the medico-legal reports was going to be, in its own way, also challenging and complex. That’s why the law firm representing the plaintiffs, LHD Lawyers, approached ASSESS Medical Group to provide the reports.

ASSESS Medical Group

Tim Morphy, the CEO of MedHealth, the parent company of ASSESS, clearly remembers when LHD Lawyers first approached ASSESS about the QF32 class action in July 2015.

“The fact that we were asked to provide this service showed that we are recognised as being a uniquely placed provider for challenging and complex legal cases,” says Mr Morphy. “Yes, we do the simple cases incredibly well. But in particular, we enable challenging and complex cases to move forward and go smoothly, for both plaintiffs and defendants,” he says.

What made the QF32 class action challenging and complex was the size and scale, and the geographical diversity, because the people on that plane were from all around Australia and the world.

“But single legal cases can also be complex,” says Mr Morphy. “For example, for a motor vehicle accident case, you can require an engineer for a crash investigation report, occupational therapist
for cost of living and home modifications reports, as well as the doctor’s report.”

“Whatever your needs are as a law firm to run a medico-legal case, ASSESS can customise a service that meets them efficiently and on time,” he says.

Right doctor, Right location

Law firms need to find the right doctor or health professional for each medico-legal case. A doctor, for instance, needs to be from the right medical specialty. “At ASSESS we have around 500 doctors from a wide range of specialties. That means we can find the right one to provide a report for the specific type of injury or disease and medical care,” says Mr Morphy.

“These reports are independent, with doctors focussed on providing accurate, expert opinion, which may be for both plaintiff and defendant cases,” he says. ASSESS can also find a doctor or health
professional in the right location, with farreaching geographical resources through its parent companies: in Australia through MedHealth or internationally through ExamWorks.

In addition, ASSESS has doctors and health professionals who are comfortable travelling interstate or overseas or using secure video consultations, to ensure that geographical location isn’t a barrier, says Mr Morphy. “We have a dedicated IT team to enable the use of cloud-based technologies through the services of Telstra and the highest level of security with an ISO certification, the only one for a company like us in Australia,” he says.

Financial solutions

Size does matter – and an inability to pay upfront for a medico-legal report or investigations such as  MRIs and CT scans may prevent a law firm taking on a case. This obviously may apply to small law firms, but also a large one representing a class action, such as LHD Lawyers.

ASSESS, however, can provide financial solutions for all law firms. “Due to our size we can provide deferred payment for a wide range of services required for running a case,” says Mr Morphy. “The cost of these services can be a massive imposte, not just for a law firm, but also a potential client. This is unfair on people who are unable to pursue their legal avenues simply because they can’t afford it,” he says.

The QF32 medico-legal reports

With the QF32 class action, ASSESS was able to provide a series of medico-legal reports within in a short period of time. In August 2015 it arranged for a psychiatrist to start providing 150 reports that had been ordered by the court to assess the psychological trauma of the plaintiffs. They were completed by November. Then the court ordered 109 reports – based on the plaintiffs who had ongoing psychological harm – assessing for economic costs including medical care and reduced work capacity, and 15 reports on cost of living.

ASSESS quickly applied its national resources to deliver a robust solution. It arranged for Perth based occupational health physician Dr Andrew Porteous to provide the economic costs reports and
occupational therapist, Erika Skibby for the cost of living reports. Dr Porteous, in particular, was identified by ASSESS as the best doctor to complete the reports due to his medical speciality and work capacity, including availability for additional hours and travel.

“With around 60 plaintiffs throughout Australia and the remainder located overseas, we worked out the most efficient logistics was to base Dr Porteous in Sydney where he could conduct the largest group of assessments face-to-face,” says Mitch Greenaway, Senior Business Relationship Manager. “The remainder of the plaintiffs who were located throughout Australia and overseas were assessed via secure video consultations,” he says.

A support team at ASSESS ensured a streamlined and efficient process so that all Dr Porteous had to do was focus on conducting the assessments and dictating his findings. “The team booked the appointments, handled the technical requirements such as setting up the secure accounts and having plaintiffs ready for assessments, and helped produce the reports with transcribing services,” says Mr Greenaway.

Remarkably, considering they had to work through the Christmas-New Year period, the vast majority of the reports were completed by February 2016. Of course, finding solutions for challenging and complex medico-legal cases is not nearly the same as what the flight crew did to save the lives of the people on Flight QF32. But it certainly does make life easier for all those involved in these types of cases.

Are you unsure what’s required to run a medico-legal case? Or know what’s required, but need help making arrangements?

Contact ASSESS on (02) 9261 5699 or email mitchell.greenaway@assessmedicalgroup.com.au

We’ll explain how we can help you with the following:

Medico-legal reports:

ASSESS can find you the right doctor or healthcare professional, in the right location for your case.

Finances:

ASSESS can arrange payments for a medico-legal report or medical investigations and tests such as radiology to ensure that finances don’t stop you running a case.

Management:

ASSESS can help manage scheduling and appointments for medical assessments, report writing and medical investigations and tests.