AS a specialist law firm, we take our responsibility to our clients seriously. Acting for those often badly injured in road traffic collisions means that our clients turn to us for advice and guidance. Motorcyclists, in particular, can sustain multiple and complex injuries. Therefore, an understanding of their post-accident needs and the type of equipment available to support their rehabilitation is crucial in an ever-advancing technological world.
For lawyers working in the field of personal injury, keeping abreast of the latest available equipment for an injured client is vital. Complex injuries demand innovative and complex solutions to aid client rehabilitation. Those with spinal cord injuries, amputated limbs or polytrauma require their legal team to be bang up to date with the latest technological advances.
Our attendance at the Cloisters Tech Conf in London in September 2019 was once again an eye-opening experience. The programme commenced with an overview of technology to assist in the rehabilitation of those with a spinal cord injury. There was a detailed analysis of assistive devices to facilitate function because, in some cases, mobility can be improved by using functional electrical stimulation and exoskeletons.
For amputees, the evolution of prosthetic foot and ankle design over the last decade has been nothing short of astonishing. Powered foot and ankle systems are available and personal injury lawyers need to ensure that any client who has suffered an amputation is able to clinically trial the latest technology in order to identify the best fit for them. Powered joints lead to increased walking speed and a reduction in energy expenditure.
The future of prosthetics is such that increased competition from manufacturers will lead to increased choice and an overall reduction in prices. Future prosthetics will be ‘hard wired’ to an individual’s nervous system leading to improved communication with the body.
Having knowledge of the technology available is only one part of the solution. Knowing how to maximise the chances of recovering the latest limbs is another and, as prosthetics become increasingly more sophisticated and expensive, clients must also be afforded the opportunity to trial the latest available equipment.
For those with a spinal cord injury, accessing the wider environment is crucial to wellbeing. Assistive robotic techniques are emerging with the sole aim of helping those with spinal cord injury achieve greater independence.
For an individual confined to a wheelchair, even the ability to hold a conversation at eye level has a huge psychological benefit. Advances in exoskeletons and the development of smart wheelchairs can increase independence. Progress is being made at an alarming rate such that ‘smart’ wheelchairs are able to perceive their surrounding environment, thus empowering the wheelchair user to move around more safely and effectively.
Life-changing injuries can be both physical and psychological. So many road traffic accident victims are traumatised by the collision and the impact of their injuries on their previously active lifestyle. Advances in immersive virtual reality (VR) are now transforming the lives of individuals with mental health disorders.
Virtual reality stimulation allows those traumatised to repeatedly experience the problematic situation and be taught how to overcome difficulties. One of the key advantages of VR is that individuals know the computer environment is not real and therefore the treatments can be more engaging and appealing for patients than traditional therapies.
Being a personal injury lawyer is no longer just about knowing the law. In order to provide an all-round service, there must also be an understanding of how technology can assist injured clients to regain their independence. PI lawyers must be proactive in identifying and instructing the relevant experts, arranging suitable trials of the latest equipment and working closely with occupational therapists, in particular, to ensure that clients who have suffered the most complex of injuries are properly compensated.
The whole purpose of an award of damages in law is an attempt to return an individual to their pre-accident position. Assisted technology is bringing that possibility closer to a reality.
Brenda Mitchell and Jodi Gordon are partners at RTAL(S) LLP