Expert Witnesses No Longer on Both Sides

It was recently announced by the former head of the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) that the expert witnesses, who appear for both sides regarding a clinical negligence, will become the norm. Steve Walker retired in August as chief executive of the NHSLA after 16 years of service. He stated that after the Jackson reforms come into place next April, solicitors will be forced to find new ways in order to lower costs. Unlike EU practices, parties in the UK are allowed to bring their own experts so that they can give evidence on litigation proceeding issues that are complicated. During the Expert Witness Institute annual conference, Walker gave a speech regarding new upcoming joint instructions. He stated that even though this might be regarded as a bold step, it is worth enforcing if it leads to the truth. Currently, there are few best experts and they cannot spread themselves on too many cases. Fact is that at the moment, there is a race on getting the most critical experts on each and every case. The practice at the moment is not efficient in any way and actions will be taken for this to change.

Members of the institute should be careful not to gain a reputation for giving favorable evidence to one side. Former chief executive of NHSLA stated that should experts decide to give favorable evidence, the judge will know and this will inevitably lead to their lost. Walker urged all experts to be honest and impartial. However, he also shared that he has experienced ‘many examples of shortcomings’. This was particularly the case in the witness profession was a full-time career for the expert.

Steve Walker also admitted that more often than not corporate defendants fail to scrutinize the reports of the experts in much detail and claims are usually seen as a ‘process’. According to him, more and more cases will be dealt with through an automatic portal arrangement. Such type of cases will also include clinical negligence claims.

High Court judge Mr Justice Ramsey urged solicitors to work on and improve their understanding of how issues such as clinical negligence work in the era of ‘proportionate and predetermined costs’. He stated that ‘it is not longer appropriate to say to a claimant there is an open chequebook on expert evidence’. According to Mr Ramsey, solicitors seek expert advice when they have no idea on how to deal with a given issue. He state, however, that instead of hiring experts to investigate, the solicitors should themselves understand and then explain to clients the costs regarding a certain position. It will be no longer acceptable to be negligent in such situations or give favorable evidence to one side or another. It was reported that experts who appear on both sides regarding a clinical negligence will become the norm. It will be solicitors’ responsibility to stay informed and to inform experts as well as too look for ways in order to lower costs.

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