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An OTs Role in a Legal Space

The role of Occupational Therapists (OTs) in the medico-legal sector is largely uncharted. That’s understandable as we are a relatively small group of specialists who work with occupation-based injuries. As our profession grows and expands, so does the need for OTs to explore the medico-legal space.

In several personal injury cases, OTs may help patients to overcome or compensate for impairment and disability that results from a certain accident or specific medical condition. A personal injury lawyer helps clients to receive compensation for their medical expenses and lost wages resulting from their injuries. However, to accurately demonstrate how the individual’s injuries have impacted his/her life, it is beneficial to work with an OT. Occupational therapists look at an individual holistically and can thus assess a broad spectrum of conditions that cause functional limitations and determine how the individual’s activities of daily living, work, and leisure are affected.  

Multidisciplinary approaches which could include inputs from e.g. Clinical Psychologists, Industrial Psychologists, and Surgeons, to name a few, are preferred. In this sense, rehabilitation inputs from OTs could play a vital role in helping patients regain their independence at home and in the workplace. With a focus on practical skills development, OTs often provide important insight into overcoming cognitive, emotional, and physical issues that arise from traumatic brain injuries and other neurological disorders. Furthermore, OTs form an essential part of the mosaic team involved in workplace illness, injury, and disability stemming from a myriad of conditions and illnesses by identifying needs and providing suitable interventions, as well as facilitating communication between relevant parties and implementing return to work or gainful work solutions.

An OT that specialises in the Medico-Legal industry works alongside personal injury lawyers and attorneys to help quantity the personal injury by looking at various factors, such as:

  1. Loss of income

Establishing whether the patient can continue to work with their injury, return to similar or alternative work, or has been left at a functional disadvantage in terms of residual work ability and employability. An OT can for instance determine whether the injury has affected the individual’s ability to perform his/her day-to-day job and outline the extent thereof by quantifying loss of productivity, inability to meet specific job demands or provide insight in terms of specific job-related losses (which may necessitate reasonable accommodations, assistive devices, or a sympathetic employer) and detail other sequelae such as loss of income or benefits. 

  1. Self-care

Exploring whether the patient requires help with personal care or other home-safety issues? (eg. the claimant is no longer able to perform basic tasks).

  1. Home care

What functionality has been lost or damaged and will the patient be able to perform housekeeping duties or will they need to get help to manage their home effectively. (eg. A claimant may have lost the use of their legs in a motor vehicle accident, leaving them wheelchair-bound and unable to clean their house.

  1. High cost of medication 

Determining whether additional medication is required, post-injury. These costs need to be factored into damage calculations. (eg. Additional use of long-term medication or pain killers may be used for an extended period due to pain caused through injury, resulting in high medical costs). These scenarios can be exceptionally hard on the claimant’s lives and future and an OT plays a major role in ensuring they get an accurate health assessment following an injury and the rehabilitation they require thereafter.

One thing is for sure is that the claimant in all likelihood experiences discomfort, pain or loss of function due to their injury, so you want to make the process as seamless and pain-free for them as possible. So, the use of Medico-Legal Hubs is an innovative space where multiple professionals in one central space can evaluate claimants. This includes that the need to travel to various doctor’s rooms to engage in the respective medico-legal assessments is minimised. The specialists essentially come to the claimant.

Smart Expert is a Medico-Legal Hub where multiple experts can assess RAF Claimants or insurance claimants in a centralised workspace over a day or two — specifically designed for mobile experts to rent equipped office space for the duration they require. For attorneys who use our Medico-Legal Hubs, it has also proved significant saving of time, money, and hassle – putting flexibility in the palm of their hands.

The benefits are utilising a medico-hub are far-reaching, but we’ve unpacked the major ones to take note of:

Benefits of using a Medico-legal Hub: Claimant

  • Central space for assessment
  • Save time traveling to various experts/practices
  • Claimants can see that their claim is in progress
  • Access to professional care all in one space

Michelle Durant, Industrial Psychologist, IoPsych is a regular at SmartExpert Medico-Legal hub and she said “we absolutely love working at the Smart Expert Facilities. It is such an innovative spin on the Medico-Legal space, not only does the facility provide huge collaboration benefits for professionals in the field, but focuses on the patient, where patients now have one convenient central space to complete assessments, instead of spending days away from home and need to visit multiple locations.”

Even though a hub is patient-centered, there are also major benefits for professionals to utilise a Medico-Hub, such as:

Benefits of using a Medico-legal Hub: Professionals

  • Access to state-of-the-art equipment
  • Central space for assessments
  • Collaboration with like-minded professionals
  • Convenient plug-and-play office
  • Save time & money

“Treating claimants with dignity in one centralised space, allows us to give each person a patient-centered approach through collaboration, interaction with experts, and innovative office dynamics.”

Ingrid Kleynhans Wagner, CEO, and founder of Smart Expert

More on Smart Expert

Smart Expert was born during the pandemic, where experts across the country faced uncertain and challenging times for their practices, many of which were forced to close. This reality birthed the Medico-Legal Hubs across the country in the face of adversity. This workspace made professionals feel valued by giving them access to state-of-the-art equipment while giving the claimant a dignified space to be assessed at. 

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