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Expert witnesses have voiced their concerns over the impact of the Jackson reforms, including “bullying” solicitors and reduced fees, say the New Law Journal.
They report that in a survey carried out by legal training company Bond Solon, experts said their fees were falling, with some solicitors trying to “haggle”. Those quoted also reported difficulty in setting an overall fee for work from the outset as this in itself often required a lot of research.
One psychiatrist is quoted as experiencing a 60% reduction in his workload, with about 30% of quotes now turned down by solicitors, often where the patient bringing the claim had a complex pre-existing medical history. The article goes onto report that he noticed an increase in agencies asking him to see clients without prior access to their notes, which he refuses to do.
“In these cases the history needs to be recorded in detail and there are complex issues to discuss in relation to causation,” he says.
“In most cases the size of the claim is too small to warrant the cost of my report but I am not in the position to cut corners as these are the cases most likely to be challenged. In contrast, clients with no pre-existing psych history can still be seen within acceptable budget. This obviously does raise issues about equitable access to justice/compensation.”
The article goes onto quote a cardiologist: “Solicitors are bullying and even threatening experts that cases will collapse and it is our fault if deadlines aren’t met.” He says he sat up until 3am with a fever to finish a report when he had flu after the instructing solicitor told him he would be held responsible for costs if he was late.
A consultant says: “Cases are poorly defended or argued because of time limits as well as cost limits, medical experts are moving out of my area back into private or NHS work because of draconian time limits and fears of litigation against them if not complied with.” However, he added that he personally wrote to the judge to ask for more time in his case, after the instructing solicitor refused, and was given an extra six weeks to write his report.
This article was first published by New Law Journal on 19 March 2014 and is reproduced with permission.
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