As an expert you should be aiming to produce a report which is free standing – from which the reader can glean the key issues in the case, understand the evidence available and reach a clear understanding of the range of expert opinion, without needing to look at any other document.
What should a good report include?
- A title page – including:
Numbered pages, short numbered paragraphs and appropriate subheadings.
Your personal details, name, current post and summary of previous experience.
Statement of the opinion you have been asked to provide and details of your relevant knowledge/experience enabling you to comment on the issues.
List of documentation considered and relied upon in reaching your opinion on the case.
Chronology and summary of the relevant evidence:
- the date of the report
- the date of the examination
- the identity of the parties to the action
- the full name (and date of birth) of the plaintiff
- the party providing the instructions
- the nature of the report.
Where you have undertaken an examination or performed other investigation(s):
- Giving exact dates wherever possible
- When referring to important parts of the records, quoting relevant entries verbatim, if possible (identifying it as a direct quote – eg, by the use of italics)
- I dentifying disputed facts and stating the sources of the information set out eg,“history given on admission to hospital on 01.02.2005”
- Explaining relevant technical terms and abbreviations
- Reviewing the evidence for a sufficient period of time before and after the incident/period of alleged negligence – to put the events in context and highlight other relevant features of the history.
- Say who carried out any examination, measurement, test or experiment which you have used for the report, give qualifications of that person, and say whether or not the test or experiment has been carried out under your supervision
- Record relevant positive and negative findings
- Maintain a clear distinction between the history given, the history recorded in the records, your own findings and your interpretation of those findings
- Focus on the significance of the findings for the plaintiff’s everyday life
- Give timescales for probable improvement/deterioration, treatment options available, etc
- Refer back to the pleadings, if appropriate, to ensure that all relevant matters have been addressed.
- Comment on each question or allegation of negligence separately quoting the question or allegation whenever possible
- Where the question/allegation appears to repeat or overlap with another or seems misdirected, explain why and refer to other relevant paragraphs
- Justify the conclusions reached by reference to the evidence in the case, your specialist knowledge and any published references you relied on
- When dealing with an issue on which there are a range of opinions, provide reasons for the view expressed and state those opinions
- Where you take sides in an area of factual dispute, give an explanation of why you favour one version over another
- Where there is evidence undermining your opinion, outline that evidence and explain why it is not persuasive
When commenting on the opinions of other experts:
The concluding paragraph:
- Summarise the areas of agreement and disagreement
- Point to evidence supporting or undermining the views given
- Avoid giving a view on matters outside your area of expertise
- Remain focused on the facts of the particular case
- Confine your report to the scope of your instructions and your own expertise
- Distinguish between questions of fact and of opinion
- Distinguish clearly between known facts and assumptions made.
- Avoiding further repetition of the facts but summarising the opinions reached
- Returning to the issues you have been asked to consider and/or the pleadings, to make sure that an opinion has been given on all relevant matters with proper attention to the legal tests to be applied
- Conclude with a statement of truth, in which you state that the facts and matters you refer to in your report are true. An instructing lawyer will be able to provide the correct wording.
- Always comply with the deadlines for providing reports
- Do not accept instructions if you can’t meet the deadlines or if for whatever reason you can’t give an objective and impartial opinion, or if you are not prepared to testify in court.