Common Problems Presented When Hiring an Expert & Their Solutions

Finding an impartial Expert, an Expert who is not pushed for time and one who is experienced in Court is an ideal, yet difficult, Expert to find. We reconnect with Richard Scott Watson who address the common problems lawyers face when working with an expert witness; he addresses all these issues and how to tackle them.

  1. Impartiality

What should legal professionals look out for when trying to find an impartial expert?

I would certainly consider that the main issue is to know your expert and do not use agencies, who will send anyone to you. Direct communication is far better than communication via any third party and is much more efficient. As fees become a disbursement on admission of liability, they should not really be an issue, even though this is often being used as a reason to use agencies. Experts are on registers such as the National Register of University Certificated Expert Witnesses (Bond Solon) or the UK Register of Expert Witnesses amongst others.

Experts soon get a reputation for delivering an efficient service or not.

How have you seen lack of impartiality affect legal cases?

I have seen numerous cases where the expert is not impartial. They usually end up at trial and fortunately, so far, they have always lost. Unfortunately, courts are not good at ensuring that Part 35 is adhered to by experts and unfounded views that support one side still occur without criticism.

  1. Lack of time

You have previously mentioned how errors creep in due to rushed appointments. What should be done to reduce such time restrained errors?

In the RTA3/ MedCo system errors are rife. It is an almost entirely unaudited market with GP Experts giving as little as 5 minutes per report, with anything above 15 minutes being rare. I have never seen one of these reports that are of adequate quality, having audited many. The biggest problem is cost, and the biggest problem with cost, is agencies taking a massive cut. This reduces appointment times and quality. This necessarily impacts on justice. Guidance from Liverpool Victoria Company Ltd v Khan and Ors [2018]EXHC 2581(QB) shows that Judicial opinion is that appointments of 15 minutes were inadequate, which is a useful pointer. I would consider 30 minutes is needed as a minimum.

Moreover, what should legal professionals look out for, in order to avoid hiring a ‘pushed for time’ expert?

It is best to enquire about turnover, or better still ask around. Experts soon get a reputation for delivering an efficient service or not. Ask about turnaround times for reports and for supplementary. Agencies slow communication and often cause unnecessary delay

  1. Communication Issues

Do you think all experts should be trained [e.g., via mock trials] to communicate their expertise to juries? Would this help in medico-legal cases?

I think all experts should be qualified experts. The gold standard is the Bond Solon/ Cardiff University course and that has been around a long time, so there really is no excuse. Anyone using MedCo must have undertaken the training but, as above, despite this, the reports are generally poor. Many experts are considered as such, purely because they are NHS Consultants. In fact, what they are called to give opinion on is frequently either conditions that they never see in practice (whiplash, sprains) or areas of the condition (such as disability) that they never have to consider and are not qualified to opine upon.

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