Personal injury claims are by their nature extremely complex. Lawyers and judges are not medically trained and it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to assess the extent and consequences of a claimant’s injuries.
For this reason specialist medical evidence is always required to support a personal injury claim. In the main, these expert witnesses generally provide an excellent service providing accurate and impartial evidence to assist the court.
However, on occasion mistakes are made and these mistakes could have potentially very serious consequences for the claimant. One such case where this happened is Jones v Kaney  UKSC 13.
This case concerned an expert witness in a personal injury case. The Claimant, Mr Jones had been injured in a road traffic accident. Mr Jones suffered serious physical and psychiatric injuries, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Mr Jones pursued a Personal Injury claim against the driver and his solicitors instructed a consultant clinical psychologist named Dr Kaney to produce a report on Mr Jones’ psychiatric injuries.
Dr Kaney later negligently signed a joint statement without considering the evidence of the expert for the Defendant. The result of this action was that the expert conceded a series of points that significantly reduced the value of Mr Jones’ claim. Dr Kaney admitted what she had done to the Claimant’s solicitors.
The Claimant’s solicitors applied to the court for permission to acquire further expert evidence to support their client’s personal injury claim, but they were refused. Consequently, Mr Jones was forced to settle significantly below the true value of his claim.
Mr Jones subsequently brought a claim against the expert for the difference between what he was forced to settle for and the amount the claim was actually worth. The expert sought to defend the claim on the ground that she was immune from suite and could not be sued for mistakes she may have made in her activities as an expert witness.
The case was eventually appealed to the Supreme Court, who by a majority, decided to abolish the immunity of expert witnesses and gave judgment for the claimant.
This case acts as a warning to all expert witnesses that they are at risk of a professional negligence claim should they perform their duties below the standard that can be reasonably expected of an expert in their field.
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