The definition of an Expert Witness, according to The Crown Prosecution Service, is someone who is able to “furnish the court with information which is likely to be outside the experience and knowledge of a judge or jury”. An Expert Witness can provide statements, which are unbiased and objective, on any admissible matter that calls for an expert opinion if they are qualified to give such an opinion.
With over 35 years’ experience in construction, and as a Fellow of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS), John, our Managing Director, often undertakes the role of Expert Witness. As part of this role, on each claim and dispute, he provides clients and/or solicitors with an independent review of the facts and his experienced opinion. His appointment as an Expert Witness is generally by one of the solicitors acting for either the Claimant or the Defendant; albeit Expert Witnesses can also be appointed directly by the Court.
Below, he breaks down the process and gives his top tips on what you should do if you need an Expert Witness!
“The appointment of an Expert Witness generally comes from one of the acting solicitors, and as the go-to firm for one of the UK’s most prominent solicitors, our appointment allows us to be an independent set of eyes for either the Defendant or Claimant. However, prior to our appointment comes the first question, “Is this a conflict of interest?”. For example, if you are golfing buddies with the MD of one of the parties, or if you work for one of the parties in another capacity, it’s not ethical for you to be an Expert Witness on a case involving them.
Once conflict of interest has been discounted, the solicitors issue all relevant information they have, including a pleaded claim, which tells me what the claim is about, and a breakdown sheet detailing the claim amount. From this, and other information, I can review the documents to establish if what has been claimed for is correct, if the breakdown aligns with the pleaded claim, and if it is relevant to the claim. It is surprising how many times a Defendant/Claimant will include information which is not relevant or not provide evidence to back up their claims!
If the information provided does not cover the entirety of the claim, my next step is to go back to the acting solicitor and request for further information, either from themselves or the opposing solicitor. If no further information is provided or is not available, my independent review of the facts is based upon the previous information I have received.
If more information is available, once reviewed, my report is then revised using the new information. It may be that the new information has no impact upon my findings, but it may be useful to provide a clearer picture as to why these are my findings. From here, my report is further amended and issued to my instructing solicitor.
My appointment may also include an appearance at mediation, or ultimately, at court. At the beginning of every appointment, I am generally made aware if I will be needed to appear in either, and dates will be set aside for all Expert Witnesses to attend. My attendance at mediation may be all that is needed, and if both Claimant and Defendant come to an agreement then the case is settled.”
John’s Top Tips
- Provide all the information first time – For a Claimant to maximise the likelihood of the Expert Witness agreeing with much of the claim, it is essential that detailed, full and proper relevant information is provided with the claim. The provision of incomplete information or where elements of the claim are unsubstantiated by the Claimant, will invariably lead to the Expert Witness having difficulty in providing a full and meaningful assessments, and as a result, it is likely that the assessment will be for an amount significantly lower than the Claimants expectations
- Use an Expert Witness that has the right experience – most solicitors will approach an Expert Witness who has many years of experience, and who is highly qualified, but always make sure that your Expert Witness has the experience and credibility to fulfil the role.
As you can see, the role of an Expert Witness provides clients with a detailed and thorough service, complete with expert findings and opinions, honed from several years of experience – if John’s top tips are adhered to!
For more information regarding this service, head to our services page or contact us via email and speak to a member of our team!