Dr Bown focuses on the role of the expert – and describes how they can be key in successfully defending a case.
I write this having just heard that a claim against a member has today been discontinued by a high profile claimant, two days into trial, after the expert evidence had been heard. Fantastic news for the doctor, and vindication for the defence team of the judgments they have made in steering a long and complex journey to success.
There are many elements involved in building a robust and successful defence but, as any seasoned litigator will tell you, the strength of your expert is pivotal in determining the prospects of success or defeat. This is further illustrated in the case reports "The twisted knee" and "An expert eye".
Selecting the right expert is very important; it’s not about being a friend or advocate for the defendant, nor about being a fierce evangelist espousing heavyweight opinion intended to demolish the opposition. The expert’s role is to provide independent assistance to the court through unbiased and evidence-based opinion in relation to matters within his expertise. And before that, the expert plays a critical role in assisting the lawyers to understand the clinical issues and judgments to inform the advice to the member.
This is not just in relation to clinical negligence claims; we are seeing increasing reliance on experts at inquests and medical council hearings in many countries. MPS regularly runs expert training days around the world, to ensure that tomorrow’s experts will know what to expect, and provide the strength of opinion that underpins excellence in case handling.
Paying strict attention to detail, answering the questions posed, and providing the independent, objective evidence to support the opinion are key to steering towards just outcomes.