A CORK GP has hit out at Ireland’s “compensation culture” which he said is fuelling spurious claims that are costing thousands of euro.
Dr Nick Flynn said he has treated patients who have suffered severe injuries as a result of other people’s negligence and that they certainly deserve compensation.
However, he added that payouts are so high in the Irish system, which encourages some to game the system.
Dr Flynn was speaking after reports that some lawyers and GPs are fuelling compensation culture by actively encouraging patients to bring claims.
It was reported that GPs are being asked to amend medical reports for personal injury claims.
Dr Flynn, who has conducted reports for patients making claims and second-opinion reports for insurance companies, said the vast majority of GPs would not get involved in anything like that.
“Our responsibility is to inform the court of the medical issues,” he explained.
“It’s not a responsibility to the patient or solicitors making the claim or to the insurance companies - it’s a responsibility to the courts to allow it to make an informed decision as to what is fair in terms of compensation if compensation is due.”
Dr Flynn said that the blame for this surge in spurious claims lies with the courts, not GPs.
“The courts are awarding crazy amounts to patients,” he said.
“The average payout for whiplash injuries in a road traffic accident in Ireland is €20,000.
“In the UK, it’s around £5,000,” he added.
“So that’s going to encourage people to pursue claims.”
Dr Flynn explained that there are thousands of claims of whiplash or chronic neck pain every year in places like Ireland, the UK, Australia and the US, which all have whiplash compensation.
He said that this is not the case in places that have no such compensation culture and that Ireland must take notice.
“There’s none in New Zealand, Lithuania, Singapore, Germany - countries where there isn’t this compo culture,” he added.
“There was an old saying that the treatment for whiplash is a poultice of €50 notes.
“It’s still not far wrong.”
Dr Flynn said that GPs do not relish doing these reports and can be called into question if their findings differ to those of doctors employed by insurance companies.
“From my own point of view, I want to give the courts as honest and accurate information as I can,” he explained.
“The reason for that is if the patient goes to the insurance company’s doctor and the medical evidence is not agreed upon, I’d be called into court to explain why my evidence states the patient is in a worse condition than that of the insurance doctor.
“That’s not something I want - no GP wants it,” he added.
“In general, GPs stick to the facts and provide an honest prognosis.
“That’s not where the problem lies - it lies with the big payouts being awarded by the courts.
“If someone sprains their ankle and think they can get more than €10,000 for it in court, they’re going to make a claim in most cases.
“It’s fueling this claims culture.”