You are here

Solicitors are placing pressure on experts to amend reports

Expert witnesses feel their impartiality has been damaged by some practitioners

24 November 2014

Add comment

Expert witnesses say they are under pressure to change their reports, according to the latest Bond Solon Annual Expert Witness Survey.

The survey of 186 expert witnesses found that 55 respondents admitted being asked, or felt pressurised to, alter a report in a way they felt damaged their impartiality.

Experiences from experts ranged from being asked to remove sections of reports that were seen as damaging to the client's case, to being asked to re-write a report in their favour. Other experts said some solicitors had even refused to pay them if they felt they had written an "unhelpful" report.

Providing answers to the survey, one expert wrote: "A leading firm of solicitors tried to pressurise me on more than one occasion as the client didn't like my conclusions."

Another expert witness said: "Solicitors were asking for the report to be changed materially to the client's advantage. Other solicitors were asking for quoted GP notes entries to be changed. I always refused."

'Overt bullying'

The survey found that contrary to the civil, criminal and family procedural rules, experts were being put under varying amounts of pressure to disregard their objectivity.

One expert witness wrote: "A case of overt bullying. Solicitor had a weak case and was clutching at straws. Solicitor told me: 'You have a duty to the court to do as instructed by solicitor'. I knew that to be wrong. Solicitor threatened I would be liable for wasted costs."

A separate respondent to the survey reported: "the salami technique of redaction (until) gradually the essence of my argument was lost".

Meanwhile, another expert claimed he was asked to change a claimant's past medical history. Others still were asked to remove damaging comments or take out certain evidence altogether.

The subject of the 'hired gun' was also raised in the Bond Solon survey with an overwhelming 45 per cent of expert witnesses admitting to have encountered what they believed to be experts for hire within the last 12 months.

Expert regulation

The survey also found that an overwhelming majority of respondents believe better regulation is needed of expert witnesses.

A total of 82 experts said they believe in some form of regulation, with just over a third disagreeing. Similarly, approximately one third of respondents believe mandatory accreditation will improve standards of expert witnesses.

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

Categorised in:

Expert witness