Finding the right expert witness for foot and ankle injury claims

Understanding the Role of Orthopaedic Expert Witnesses in Foot and Ankle Injury Claims

Depending on the severity and type, foot and ankle injuries can have serious long-term consequences for our quality of life, and in some cases can even be life-threatening. Ankle injuries in particular are extremely common due to the high load on the joint and its vulnerability to twisting and rolling. When it comes to making a claim for foot and ankle injuries, whether they occur in public or in a workplace, it can be sometimes difficult to establish a link between an act of negligence and the damage caused. For this reason, orthopaedic expert witnesses play a key role in the success of such claims, by providing evidence showing how the specific type of injury was caused by the negligent act. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common foot and ankle injuries, and why the expertise of an orthopaedic surgeon often proves key in such cases.

How common are foot and ankle injuries?

Acute ankle sprains are among the most common type of musculoskeletal injury, accounting for 5% of all Accident and Emergency department visits in the UK (approximately 5600 injuries per day). Ankle injuries are often viewed as relatively benign and the type of injury that while it may have short-term consequences, tend to resolve with time and, in some cases, with minor treatment or therapy. Research shows, however, that long-lasting symptoms are common months and even years after the injury. According to research by the University of Edinburgh, “Approximately, one-third of patients report residual complaints after treatment, such as pain, re-sprain, swelling, muscular weakness, plus loss of function or feelings of instability”. These residual complaints can lead to functional and mechanical impairments, long-term restrictions, and limitations in occupational and recreational activities. In turn, this can significantly reduce an individual’s quality of life.

Foot injuries are also extremely prevalent and can be caused by a wide range of factors such as physical trauma (e.g. an object falling onto the foot), inappropriate footwear, poor posture, dangerous floor surfaces, and prolonged periods of time standing, walking, and operating machinery.

In 2023, a worker suffered severe leg and ankle injuries, including fractures, when hit by a forklift while working for his employer, AkzoNobel Packaging Coatings Ltd. The incident occurred because the driver’s vision was obstructed by containers, leading to the collision on a pedestrian crossing. After six weeks in the hospital and five surgeries, Mr Upton still faces the risk of amputation. AkzoNobel Packaging Coatings Ltd who admitted liability were fined £600,000, paid £3,188 in costs, and provided interim payments for rehabilitation.

ankle injury

What are the most common types of foot and ankle injuries?

There are many types of common foot and ankle injuries, including:

  • Ankle Sprain – Ankle sprains are extremely common and can occur when the ligaments that support the ankle are stretched or torn, often due to a sudden twist or turn.
  • Plantar Fasciitis – Plantar Fasciitis occurs due to inflammation of the tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, causing heel pain.
  • Stress Fractures – Hairline cracks in the bone may occur as a result of repetitive stress on the foot.
  • Ankle Fractures – Breaks in the bones of the ankle joint, often caused by trauma or falls
  • Achilles Tendonitis – Achilles Tendonitis occurs due to inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone
  • Peroneal Tendonitis – Occurs as a result of inflammation of the tendons on the outer part of the ankle
  • Metatarsalgia – Metatarsalgia is characterised by pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot
  • Shin Splints – Shin splints are characterised by pain along the inner edge of the shinbone, often related to running or other high-impact activities
  • Bruising – Bruising of the foot or ankle, often due to trauma or impact
  • Foot Arch Pain – Conditions such as flat feet or high arches can contribute to pain and discomfort
  • Peripheral Neuropathy – Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves become damaged over time leading to feelings of tingling, numbness, or pain in the feet.

How can an orthopaedic expert witness help in foot and injury claims?

Orthopaedic expert witnesses in foot and ankle claims can play a key role in legal cases resulting from foot and/or ankle injuries, whether they occur in public, in a private setting, or in the workplace. Orthopaedic surgeons, podiatrists, and other specialists in this field have the expertise to interpret and review medical records, diagnostic imaging, and other relevant notes and documents related to the foot and ankle injury in question, and to form an expert opinion about the nature of the injury. They also explain whether a duty of care was owed, the cause of the injury, the extent of the injuries or disabilities resulting from the incident, the extent of loss, pain and suffering, and the immediate and long-term costs.

In some cases, it is more obvious that an individual or business has been negligent, and that negligence led to a foot or ankle injury. In other cases, this may be much less obvious, and require a more forensic approach. For example, if an unsecured heavy object falls on a construction site causing damage to a worker’s foot, the cause is clear. On the other hand, if a person suffers from peripheral neuropathy due to exposure to environmental toxins, or plantar fasciitis caused by many years of standing in a poor posture while operating a machine, medical expertise can be vital in demonstrating a link between the cause and effect.

An expert orthopaedic witness will also help to educate the court and judge on complex medical matters related to foot and ankle injuries in a way that is easily understood by those who do not have medical training.

How Expert Court Reports can help

Our highly experienced Orthopaedic Expert Witnesses can assist your personal injury case, involving foot and ankle injuries. To find out more please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online formWe will arrange a time for you to speak to the relevant Orthopaedic Surgeon who will listen to the case details and advise the best way forward.