Compared to most healthcare occupations, occupational therapy has a vast scope of practice. Occupational therapists (often referred to as ‘OTs) may find themselves working with any age group, individuals or groups in any setting and helping with a wide range of physical and cognitive problems. It is precisely because of their sheer breadth of knowledge and expertise that occupational therapists can provide vital input into legal cases that no other healthcare professional can. In this article, we will discuss the unique value of an occupational therapist expert witness in legal cases such as personal injury and workplace injury compensation claims.
What is an occupational therapist?
Occupational therapists use a wide variety of assessment methods and interventions to help individuals or groups to develop, regain, or maintain the physical and cognitive functions necessary for daily living. OTs work in a range of settings, including the community, hospitals, workplaces, schools, and prisons. An OT may help:
- A patient who has suffered a stroke to dress themselves
- A baby who requires help with feeding
- A person who has memory deficits to attend education
- To reduce the risk of tripping and falling in the home
- Provide strategies to individuals with learning disabilities
- A person who is unable to communicate to use assistive technology, or
- Rehabilitate a person with a serious physical injury or cognitive impairment
How can an occupational therapist expert witness help in a legal case?
Occupational therapy expert witnesses are highly proficient at explaining the future rehabilitation needs of clients so they can regain the functioning needed for activities of daily living (e.g. getting dressed, going to work, cooking food, self-care etc.). In particular, OTs are experts in:
- Advising on future care and rehabilitation needs
Depending on the type and severity of the injury or illness, a client may require months or years of ongoing medical care, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, community care, or psychological therapy. OTs are well placed to provide expert input on the extent of care received, the future care needs of a client, future care costs, and the likelihood of recovery
- Advising on home modifications and adaptive equipment
OTs specialise in the area of adaptive equipment and home modifications. If following an injury or serious disease, a client requires equipment (e.g. motor vehicles, wheelchairs, assistive communication devices) and home modifications (e.g. wet room, hoists, ramps), OTs can explain why these are needed and the cost associated. The cost of purchasing, installing, replacing and maintaining this type of equipment can be extremely high, hence it is important to have an accurate and comprehensive breakdown of any figures to achieve the necessary level of compensation. OTs are used to designing, justifying, and creating detailed cost estimates for local authorities and other funding agencies and can do the same in an expert witness report.
- Advising on vocational capacity
OTs are well-versed in assessing and determining the capacity of patients to return to work. In some cases, an OT may conclude that a client is unlikely to be able to return to their previous occupation following an injury or illness. If so, they will be able to explain in detail how the loss of physical and mental functioning is likely to prevent their return to work. If the client may be able to return to work following a period of physical and/or cognitive rehabilitation or with the use of adaptive equipment, an OT can explain how long this will take.
Importance of up-to-date occupational therapy knowledge
It is vital that any occupational therapist expert witness is viewed by the court as highly experienced and credible by showing that they have up-to-date, best practice and evidence-based knowledge. As active practitioners in their specialist field, our expert OTs are abreast of the latest evidence-based assessments and interventions. They also understand the latest adaptive equipment and home modification methods available and the current costs associated. This is especially important because, for example, if a client requires a wheelchair, an OT must be able to recommend a current model that will meet the present and future needs of the patient. To ensure full credibility, we only ever recommend OTs with specific expertise in the injury or illness of each client (e.g. spinal injury, head injury, stroke, birth injury, or industrial diseases such as mesothelioma).
It is the job of OT expert witnesses to combine their broad healthcare knowledge and experience with their medico-legal expertise to provide impartial, professional advice and opinion to help courts reach a fair and reasonable conclusion. Occupational therapist expert witness reports really can make all the difference when it comes to achieving financial compensation that meets the present and future needs of your clients.
How can Expert Court Reports Ltd help?
At Expert Court Reports, we have several occupational therapist expert witnesses who can provide evidence in personal injury, workplace injury, and other cases.
Expert Court Reports provides expert witnesses and medico-legal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies, including the police, probation services, prisons, and third-sector organisations, as well as private clients.
To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or request a call by completing our online form.