Expert medical evidence is fundamental to occupational disease claims and yet we still see claimants’ reports prepared by “experts” who are ill qualified or lack the requisite experience to comment.
That is not to say that all medico-legal experts should be castigated in the same way; far from it. The majority of experts produce reports which are clear, well-founded and objective. Experts have themselves cottoned on to the need for objectivity. In the past, it was fairly easy to label an expert as “pro-claimant” or equally as a “robust defendant expert”. In either case, partiality only serves to increase costs and cause unnecessary delay and acrimony.
So how should you set about finding the right expert? If you are looking to instruct somebody for the first time, scrutiny of their CV is clearly the first step. Next, consider whether they are up to speed with current clinical practice, for example whether they are still practicing within the NHS. A raft of papers on abstract topics may well highlight their academic ability but it is not indicative of their experience at the front line. Do not be afraid to ask why they feel experienced to comment.
By way of example, in relation to an alleged poisoning claim, we needed to instruct a toxicology expert, many of whom are trained primarily as pathologists. We had to be satisfied that our expert’s experience went beyond the four walls of a research laboratory. We made careful enquiries to ensure that they:
- Had working experience of the alleged toxin, to what extent and how recently.
- Were appropriately qualified to review medical records.
- Were able to consider differential diagnoses other than exposure to excessive levels of the toxin as alleged.
A series of basic questions, but crucial and important to establish before we asked the expert to report, let alone go anywhere near a witness box.
The number of medico-legal experts is increasing and it is important for those instructing experts to keep an eye on who is in the market. Geography can be an important factor, and Kennedys has a national network of offices which provides local knowledge. If you require assistance in locating the right expert, please get in touch.