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Experts divided on impact of Jackson reforms

39 per cent think it will lead to injustices, survey finds

13 November 2012

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Expert witnesses are divided on whether the Jackson reforms will cut their fees or lead to injustices, a survey has found.

A large minority, 39 per cent, said they believed implementation of the reforms in April 2013 would lead to injustices.

However, 24 per cent said they would not, and 36 per cent were undecided. A total of 146 of the 350 experts who attended last week's Bond Solon expert witness conference took part in the survey.

Opinions were equally split over whether costs management, a central part of the Jackson reforms, would cut their fees.

Just over a third, 36 per cent, disagreed. A slightly smaller group, 32 per cent, were undecided, while 27 per cent agreed.

Mark Solon, managing director of Bond Solon, said he was surprised more experts did not expect fees to decrease.

“The thrust of Jackson is time, money and focus,” Solon said. “Things should be quicker, with less expense, and focus on the things that matter.

“I think experts may be living in a world of optimistic unreality when it comes to their fees and the amount of work they will get in the future. They are a substantial cost in litigation and in the judiciary’s firing line.

“The really top experts will refuse to work for reduced fees. They may prefer to do their day job, while the ones who lower their rates may not be of the right quality.”

A small minority of experts, 15 per cent, said that if their fees were cut, they would stop acting as expert witnesses, with a similar amount saying they would respond by increasing their workload.

A clear majority, 61 per cent, said they did not think that being in ‘austerity Britain’ meant they should charge lower fees.

The final section of the survey, which asked experts about their worst experiences, was dominated by complaints about not being paid, in one case because of the collapse of Manchester firm Halliwells.

Others told extraordinary tales of woe, including being sued for defamation, getting threatening letters from a killer in prison and only half the fee, and being bullied by solicitors, either to change an opinion or over fees.

In one case, a judge agreed with the father of a girl that the expert had ‘damaged his daughter’ by revealing a sex abuse allegation to her, even though the expert was obliged to by a court order. It ended with the expert having to hire a lawyer.

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