Related Sector: Expert Witness
Bond Solon sat down with former GP and expert witness, Ian Watson who shares his experience of predominantly working with litigants in person (LIP).
Whilst Ian has now retired his GP practice, he continues to be licenced with the General Medical Council in order to carry out expert witness work.
1. How did you get into this field of work?
I commenced by career as a GP in 1983 and started working as an expert witness in the late 1990s, as at that time it paid more than being a GP!
Supplementing my income with expert witness work allowed me to maintain a fruitful lifestyle, as well as meet my financial responsibilities. I was also motivated to expand my skillset and use my expertise in a different but equally rewarding way.
I took part in several training courses provided by medical-reporting agencies and annually attend the Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference.
2. What does your typical day/week look like?
I retired as an NHS GP almost eight years ago. I now work part time – two or three days a week doing medico-legal work, life insurance examinations, licencing for professional drivers. I have a DVLA franchise to examine banned drivers as part of the process of them getting their licence back.
I do not consider that there are any skills beyond those of a competent GP that are needed to act as a GP expert. Keeping an efficient office process is useful, as is the ability to give a prognosis at the ‘’first pass’’, wherever possible.
3. What’s interesting about your practice is that a large proportion of your instructions come from litigants in person (LIP). How did that come about? What sort of cases are you typically instructed on?
Pure chance, I think. I saw the upside of LIPs (no agency involvement so no top slicing of fees) when a lot of experts were hesitant to register for this work.
The LIP cases are not really all that different from work sent by agencies. I am instructed to examine and report on which symptoms are accident related and which are not, and to give a prognosis for accident-related symptoms where possible. If this is not immediately possible then to advise on any investigation, treatment or referral needed.
In the area where I work there are few experts who do portal work. I am fortunate that I have a trained quality manager working for me (she does all the office work) who embraced the concept of LIPs and deals with them in the entirety except for the clinical assessment.
It is probably true that this group need a bit more “hand holding” but this does not seem to take up a lot of her time.
4. What are the highs and lows of working with litigants in person?
The major upside is not dealing with agencies, and that LIPS make virtually no requests for amendments. Also, financially speaking it far more lucrative.
It is my experience that the LIPs I am instructed by tend to be more knowledgeable than the average agency client. They seem more motivated by getting treatment (if needed) and to put the matter behind them, rather than the prospect of financial compensation.
I have only had two requests for amendments – one where the client misunderstood what the prognosis period meant and another who told me the incorrect number of Casualty and GP attendances (they had swapped them around in error).
I see roughly ten LIPs a month, which seems quite a lot considering 90% of such clients still go through an agency rather than directly to an expert.
5. What advice would you give to an expert witness working with a litigant in person for the first time?
Be prepared to explain how the system works and to reassure them that they are in safe hands with you.
Provide a personal service – i.e., a service that is tailored as much as possible to the needs of individual clients.
Discuss the report contents and explain that they need to download and read the report.
Tell them that matters of fact will be corrected but that your opinion will not.
Bite the bullet and give it a go – in my opinion, it is much more satisfying than agency work.
This article was first published on 07 March 2023
Edited by Meera Shah
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