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The role of an Expert Witness: more than just a report
- Nov 30, 2018
- Latest News
The end goal when instructing an expert witness report is ultimately a detailed, objective report based on sound clinical judgment; a report that stands up in Court and enables decisions to be made in the interests of the litigation process. The journey to this outcome is dependant on outstanding expert witnesses with strong clinical experience.
Here, Bush & Company Rehabilitation expert witnesses explain what they feel their role is in providing expert reports and opinion in both quantum and liability.
The end to end process:
My role as an expert witness is to provide a report that stands up to scrutiny if needed and to ensure this my role begins with extensive reading of the case to gather the relevant and necessary information I need to make sure I am fully informed. This includes reading the details within the instruction as well as any other reports from medical experts included in the documentation.
In quantum cases this research is completed prior to the client assessment to enable me to have any questions answered at the meeting. Specific questions are planned based on my past experience as an expert witness and a clinician. The assessment itself varies from person to person but generally involves asking a series of questions relating to the affect of the injury on every day life and making sure this is documented and evidenced. Family and support networks may be present however my focus is on the injured person. Whilst I need to be sensitive and empathetic to a client and their family, I also need to remain realistic about what can be achieved and how best this can be done. This means I don’t get drawn in to recommending large amounts of therapy because the injured person or family feel this is what is needed. Following the questions I observe movements and functional ability to provide an overall picture of their general level of ability and difficulties as well as strength and function.
Quite often the injured person will ask questions about their injuries if they have received no guidance from other clinical professionals. In particular they are concerned with what they can expect in the long term.
My quantum report is started within two days of the assessment, following a period of reflecting on all of the information gathered and will then be completed two weeks to ensure the momentum of the case continues.
For liability and causation reports, the process tends not to include a client assessment and instead my time is spent researching the case and what occurred. This part takes a significant amount of time due to the complex nature of the cases and the amount of evidence-based research and professional guidelines that need to be considered before detailing my expert opinion.
In my experience, there is often a need to contact the solicitor following instruction to ensure key points are clarified or to gather evidence not included in the initial documents. This helps to establish rapport and build a professional working relationship that reduces surprises during the process. For example we are able to eliminate pre-existing conditions that have no relevance to the claim which would have otherwise damaged the credibility of the report. As an expert, I believe it is my role to not simply produce a report but to help the instructing party throughout the process of the case and form part of the litigation team. Regular contact with the solicitor facilitates clear discussion and provides an opportunity to receive some degree of questioning from a legal perspective.
The report writing stage can be perceived as a lengthy process but is vital to ensure that everything that has been assessed is written up in a clear, professional and thorough way. The writing stage can also pause to research particular equipment or adaptation so that recommendations are final and costs are appropriate.
Once my report is complete, the Bush & Company reports team will check it and QA checks are completed before submission to the instructing party. Quite often I will call the instructing solicitor once the report is sent to talk them through my expert opinion included. This helps the report to be easily understood, in the appropriate context.
In quantum cases, our opinion gives the court an unbiased view of what clinical input can offer the injured person in terms of helping them to achieve the most they can in life, be comfortable and pain free. Reports gives a long term plan of what is likely to be needed, considering how the condition will change over time as the injured person ages and associated costs.
In liability cases, our reports set out the appropriate professional practice before providing an opinion as to whether practice has fallen below the standard expected of a reasonably competent practitioner and of the hospital/organisation responsible for the care delivery.
One of the main challenges to providing a timely report is incomplete evidence when instructed on a case. Complete evidence is vital to ensure I can provide an expert, objective opinion on the case. This is overcome with a good working relationship with the instructing party which then helps reduce delays.
What to look for in an outstanding expert
When instructing an expert witness, instructing parties should consider the following factors:
Are they an expert?
It may seem an obvious question and the job title would assume that the person you are instructing is an expert but is that a fair description? An outstanding expert will be seasoned in their clinical profession and the report you receive will be able to stand up to scrutiny because of the high levels of experience. This ensures the expert you instruct is credible and reliable and gives you confidence in both the process and outcome.
At Bush & Company Rehabilitation, the expert witness network has an average of 23 years’ experience in their clinical profession. That level of experience gives an expert unrivalled understanding of how an injury will affect a person throughout their whole lifecycle and not just at the point of injury. Over 70% of our experts are already NHS Resolution approved.
Do they have access to training, CPD and peer support?
As well as experience gained, an outstanding expert witness needs to have access to learning, development and support opportunities to remain up to date.
At Bush & Company Rehabilitation, the expert witness network of over 75 professionals means that the experts you instruct have a UK-wide peer group to learn from and consult with where needed. This is backed up by regular training and CPD opportunities led by clinicians, solicitors, barristers and communication experts.
How do they conduct themselves?
An expert witness forms a key part of the litigation process for the instructing party and the injured person. It’s a given that you should expect a high level of professionalism and objectivity and this should present itself in how an expert witness engages with you. Do they speak with you and pick up the telephone? Do they ensure there are no surprises by keeping you informed, are their writing skills sufficient? Do they act with integrity on behalf of the Court?
At Bush & Company Rehabilitation, our on-boarding process means that experts not only understand what is expected of them but we share with them what great looks like. We also operate a ‘Chinese Walls’ system which enables the expert witness to be professional and objective and removes any risk of conflict of interest within the case. No expert has access to details of the other side of a case. This also extends to office staff who cannot proof read or QA check an opposing side of the case due to the processes and systems in place.
Can you work with them?
We understand that when instructing an expert witness, you require expertise and objectivity but we also understand that you need to be able to professional work with that person. We invite any instructing party to get in touch with us to discuss our experts and encourage you to engage with us to ensure you receive the perfect match for you needs.
About Bush & Company Rehabilitation
Bush & Company provides both quantum and liability reports for claimant and defendant solicitors and we are proud of our ability to serve both parties with objectivity and credibility.
With over 70% of our 75+ expert witnesses already NHS Resolution approved through previous cases, our UK-wide network covers physiotherapy, nursing and midwifery, occupational therapy and accommodation experts; with an average of 23 years’ experience in their clinical profession.
We have a full and robust QA checking process in place and believe we are the only firm who carry our report checking from both a clinical and legal perspective to ensure accuracy.
We have built many close working relationships with both claimant and defendant parties and these relationships ensure we can openly discuss and agree favourable and flexible commercial terms, respond efficiently to needs and are happy to discuss our network of experts in relation to need prior to instruction.
To speak to us about our Expert Witness service and our clinical professionals, contact Amey Haywood, Head of Expert Witness Services on 01327 876210 or email email@example.com