A medico-legal special interest group of Speech and Language Therapists recently descended on Clarke Willmott’s Birmingham office to be grilled by a leading Barrister, and to be trained by the firm’s expert serious injury and clinical negligence teams, in how to write the perfect expert’s report.
All of the Speech & Language Therapists who attended were clearly experts in their field, but they received training in how to write expert’s reports to best reflect their knowledge. In personal injury claims, expert evidence is often needed so that the nature and extent of brain and other injuries can be determined, and most importantly how those injuries then affect the person, hopefully identifying ways of providing rehabilitation, treatment and therapy to maximise quality of life. Speech & Language Therapists are often a vital part of the team – identifying and then treating a wide range of problems from difficulties swallowing through to assisting with the ability to communicate effectively. The delegates to the training day were keen to learn how their expertise could assist in providing evidence in civil claims.
When providing evidence like this, an expert must display true independence, and their role is to assist the Court. There are many technical requirements for the report that they write. It is often necessary to discuss cases with other experts, sometimes with differing views, and to see what can be agreed upon. Finally, in a small minority of cases, there can be the need to undertake the daunting task of giving evidence in Court.
The Clarke Willmott team took the therapists through each stage of the process of being an expert witness. Lee Hart (Serious Injury Partner) explained the technical requirements of how a report should be written. Philip Edwards (Serious Injury Partner) helped with looking at the best practice to be adopted when writing reports, whilst Chris Thorne (Clinical Negligence Partner) dealt with the complex process of meeting other experts and producing joint statements. Martin Pettingell, the Head of the Personal Injury team, chaired the day and advised how best to deal with conflicts of interest.
The team were then joined by Dr Simon Fox, a barrister from No. 5 Chambers in Birmingham (and who has recently been appointed as a QC) who donned his wig and gown and cross examined some willing volunteers on their hobbies and interests – and introduced them to court room procedure and how to deal with questions from Counsel.
The day was a huge success with lots of interaction from the delegates, and some excellent performances under cross examination!