EWI is grateful to member Andrew Quaile who has shared his template with Members so they can make use of it too.
To provide reports of a medico-legal nature it is often necessary for claimants to attend for an interview and examination. That is obviously different to reports for the court of a non-medical nature but on occasions clients may well need to be interviewed to establish the nature of the complaint and relevant facts to allow the expert to provide an opinion for the Court.
It is therefore important that the claimant understands what is to occur and the reason for the appointment. In my experience claimants differ hugely in how they have been briefed by their lawyers, if at all. They can vary from refusing to answer questions, if they are attending for a report written on behalf of the defendant, to turning up late and behaving inappropriately during the interview. Very few have their thoughts organised and many ‘forget’ previous episodes of symptoms which are relevant to the case.
Even more frequent are comments made after the report has been provided. These are often not relevant to the opinion and usually concern the previous records, which are matters of fact and cannot be altered. Many claimants speak too quickly or incoherently and are then disappointed if everything they have said is not in the report. This is made even more difficult during remote and video consultations. Claimants very rarely have taken on board the fact that the expert is independent for the court and in order to comply with that requirement the opinion should be the same if written for the claimant or the defendant. From a medical perspective, claimants are shocked that the aging process affects them and assume that an accident is responsible for all their symptoms and subsequent treatment.
It, therefore, occurs to me that claimants should be briefed by their lawyers beforehand. They should not be told what to say but told what to expect. I believe that would make life easier for all sides, both claimant and defendant. Some preparation by the claimant, including a written statement, would certainly assist the process but it should not turn into a simple cut and paste process. The claimant will need examining on their account of their claim, but any claimant submissions could be attached to the report.
To ‘prepare’ the claimant a number of actions could be taken including sending the claimant a document explaining the methodology and reasoning behind it. In a way this is a ‘consenting’ process. This could also have a tear off strip which the claimant signs and returns to the expert indicating understanding of what will take place and agreement to engage with it.
I have written a template along these lines for the Expert Witness Institute which will hopefully will cover most scenarios. I am aware that this is very much an example of something which could potentially be used by the medical profession but it may also be of use by experts in other disciplines with a bit of adaption.
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