It is important to put experts in the best possible position to prepare a detailed report, but how can solicitors assist with this? This article outlines five steps to make life easier for expert witnesses.
From the initial enquiry, to instruction and thereafter the conclusion of the case, it is important to provide experts with as much information as possible to enable them to prepare a detailed report for your client as well as make an informed and valuable judgement. Scott Rigby and Grace Makungu explain further below.
1. Provide detailed instructions
All letters of instructions to experts should be comprehensive and detailed. This is key to providing them with clarity on the main issues to be addressed in their report.
Giving the expert a timetable for producing the report can also prove useful, especially in litigated cases where there are court deadlines. This will allow the expert to organise their time effectively and deliver the report in good time for review and discussion, if appropriate.
An expert told us: “Clarity around the timetable for producing a report is very useful, and often this is excluded from the instructions/discussions.”
2. Present documents clearly
When instructing experts on complex cases, you will likely be sending several documents. These should be labelled clearly and sent in an orderly manner. For many experts, electronic records are essential and having them paginated for ease of reference can make for a more efficient review of notes.
One expert says: “I much prefer electronic medical records but have serious concerns about their presentation by certain firms of solicitors. Hard copies are invariably provided with some tabulation to facilitate navigation, and usually a schedule of contents and key to the tabs. Continuous page numbering throughout the bundle is now more common so that experts can refer to specific entries. A chronology with references to numbered pages is a welcome bonus.
“Ideally, electronic records should still be sorted in chronological order, and every page should be visibly numbered sequentially. Internal bookmarks in place of tabulation are essential to speed up navigation, yet these are often conspicuous by their absence. My problem comes when I am confronted with multiple PDFs, without any visible continuous pagination or bookmarks, totalling many hundreds of pages. Without knowing how these files have been subdivided, I simply do not know where to start.”
: Another expert says they prefer electronic records and medical imaging (in injury claims) with “clear and unambiguous password provision”.
3. Send documents in a timely manner
Solicitors should always aim to send documents well in advance of the expert-client consultation to allow the expert to fully understand the issues at hand and raise any questions prior to the appointment.
Providing all medical records in one go is preferred by most experts as this will assist them with completing their reports and avoids the back and forth once their report has been completed. However, this may not always be possible in practice, especially if the requested medical records are awaited from a medical provider.
4. Communicate effectively
Communication is key. In particular, if there have been new developments on your case, you should always update the expert so that they can incorporate the changes in their report, if necessary.
Access to the key lawyers on a matter is crucial to enabling experts to work as efficiently as possible and potentially improve the outcomes of cases. For some experts, it may be useful to have a telephone call to discuss the case.
One expert particularly appreciates “clear, friendly lines of communication”, which they think are “invaluable, especially in complex cases”.
They also noted: “One of the things I really like about Stewarts is the direct contact we have with the partners, their availability to talk and a direct phone number and email address. I am regularly in contact either by telephone or email with the partners. This direct line of communication, I have no doubt, improves the outcome for the case.”
As a professional courtesy, you should also provide updates to your experts in the event of significant developments in the case, such as stays or settlements.
5. Pay experts on time
Last but not least, you should ensure expert invoices are promptly paid as it can become time-consuming for experts to chase them.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our International Injury pages.
If you require assistance from our team, please contact us.
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