Stewarts’ annual medical witness training day took place on Thursday 22 June in our London office and included a series of fascinating presentations from many leading experts.
The training day was chaired by Joel Donovan QC of Cloisters Chambers, who was supported by a panel of eminent experts including Nick Todd, Dr Frederick Byrne, Brian Gardner, Dr John Pollock and barrister Anna Beale.
These leaders in neurosurgery, spinal injury, clinical psychology and actuarial science delivered excellent presentations on:
- How to be an expert witness
- Self-reflexivity and systemic questioning in mental capacity assessments
- Causation: an overview
- Life expectancy in SCI claims
- Life expectancy – an actuarial review.
The expertise extended beyond our panel and we were privileged to have a room filled with experts from the worlds of urology, psychiatry, neurology, neuro rehab and orthopaedics, to name but a few.
Aside from the exceptional subjects chosen by our speakers, it was also a forum to share and discuss the challenges so regularly faced by experts when instructed as medical witnesses.
How to be a good expert by Nick Todd
Nick Todd gave an interesting practical overview of how to be a good expert whilst highlighting the top three bugbears of the medical and legal professionals.
- Experts who don’t understanding the importance of deadlines and the detrimental impact failure of complying can have on the case
- Requests for amendment to reports following conferences not being implemented
- Experts suddenly changing opinion.
- Not being allocated enough time to review papers
- Receiving box after box of unpaginated records
- Receiving paper files instead of PDF files and vice versa.
The risks faced by experts in changing opinion led to a particularly lively discussion. As well as their duty to the court, the client and the instructing solicitors, could experts now also owe a duty to the litigation funders?
Assessing capacity by Dr Frederick Byrne
Dr Frederick Byrne dealt skilfully with the challenging topic of assessing capacity. He worked through some helpful case examples prompting input from delegates on challenges faced in practice such as:
- How are decisions made on whether someone has the capacity to litigate?
- What weight do you give to the actions of the person when deciding if they have capacity?
Brian Gardner shared his wealth of knowledge on this difficult subject matter and highlighted the frequent complexities experienced by those instructed to take a view on this such as:
- Which data should be used?
- How to interpret and explain the various factors that can impact on life expectancy when some are a result of instinct driven by experience
- The impact compensation can have on life expectancy.
Although legal knowledge is not essential for experts, it certainly helps, and Anna Beale gave an excellent overview of causation. Her talk was filled with examples of case law, and legal concepts and tests considered by the judiciary in reaching a decision. It was a most useful talk for experts of any discipline in understanding the legal process and how their evidence will assist the court.
The training day reinforced the fact that expert report writing is a skill. The ability to cut through reams of investigations, procedures, x-rays, scans, records, history, data, etc. to provide an opinion on which both claimant and defendant legal teams can rely is a challenging process. The expert medical report is the foundation upon which a claim is built and as one of our panel commented, “there is always something new to learn, even for the most experienced”.
Slides of the talks are available on request by emailing Hollie Brill, Marketing Executive – Events.
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