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Is every medical Expert a David Bailey in disguise?!

Medical experts are increasingly including (and quite often charging) for photographs as part of their medico-legal reports. This is not only possibly damaging for the claimant in respect of accuracy in quantum assessment, but it is also having increasing cost implications for the solicitor.

I am a specialist clinical photographer and director of Clinical Photography UK who provide national personal injury photography reports by qualified experts. This has led me to critically analyse the current contributors in photography for Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence claims.

I predict many reading this have commonly been on the receiving end of poorly taken photographs by a claimant, commercial photographer or medical expert. Whilst most poor quality images are provided by the claimant themselves, medical experts are generally untrained in clinical photography and lack knowledge of specialist photographic techniques.

As many cases rely heavily on the physical appearance of an injury for either valuation, liability, or both, is an expert the right choice?

To provide an example in context:

A plastic surgeons report on a rhinoplasty may state the Claimant has an obvious inverted V deformity as a result of an unnecessary excision of dorsal cartilage from the septum. An inferior or superior view would provide a more accurate depiction of the V deformity but is often overlooked by a commercial photographer. Whilst the medical expert may include an inferior view as part of his report, without the use of a fixed focal zoom lens the photographs would be shot at varying distances causing subject distortion. This would extenuate the shape and contours of the nose, leading to inaccurate and inadmissible photographic evidence (Please see my law gazette article on perspective distortion HERE).

For a case that relies heavily on photographic evidence of injury such as a subtle cosmetic or serious injury claim; clear and accurate photographs by a clinical photographer are vital.

Looking to the future

Basic training can provide a medical expert with knowledge on exposure, composition, and camera settings. Assuming the expert stores the images according to the DPA and relevant governmental protocols, there is no issue with experts including photographs as part of their report for reference purposes only. These images should not be relied upon for valuation or liability. If photographs are required to document severity or subtle deformity, a clinical photographer should be instructed. . Clinical photography is a specialist subject and also a profession, with hundreds of clinical photographers based at hospital sites around the UK, who are highly skilled and trained in photographing physical deformity and injury. Clinical photographers work on standardised procedures and can provide highly accurate results at roughly the same cost of an expert or commercial photographer. Post Jackson this is undoubtedly a more justifiable solution to documenting injury.

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