10.3.07

Day 112 (week 23): Dr4Hire

Even in the most honourable of professions, there is the occasional bad egg. Today I experienced this in relation to an orthopaedic surgeon who I shall call Dr4Hire, a professional expert witness if ever there was one. He boasts on his CV that he completes over 1,500 reports each year. At over £600 a pop, that means he’s bringing home almost £1million a year for his medico-legal work alone and that’s on top of his two days a week NHS practice. Each piece of work consists of a ten minute ‘examination’ followed by a copy and paste job of previous reports and a prognosis in 90% of cases in the following terms:

“The Claimant has suffered from a whiplash injury to her cervical spine. It is now three months from the accident. I would expect the injury to settle within the next nine months. If it has not done so by then I would be happy to re-examine.”

The reality is that almost all of these cases settle early on and Dr4Hire gets his fat fee. Occasionally, a case is slightly bigger and takes a little longer. Today the Boss was having a case conference with Dr4Hire about one such case. The issue arose from the fact that the Claimant had had another accident only two weeks after the one in question. The other side are claiming that the Claimant’s inability to work after those two weeks was due to the second accident. Dr4Hire hadn’t yet commented on this. If the other side are right, the claim is worth £2,000 at most. If not, it’s worth over £250,000. Here’s how parts of the conference went:

“Well Dr4Hire, you’ve looked at the evidence, what is your view as to the effect of the second accident.”
“Well obviously, I think it is irrelevant. Made no difference at all.”
“How do you answer the other side’s point that the Claimant was able to work after the first accident?”
“Well…what do you want me to say here?”
“We’ve worked together many times, Dr4Hire. You know that I can’t tell you what to say. However, he did soldier on despite the pain and was about to give up work at the time of the second accident. I suppose you might want to comment on that.”
“Yes, that’s a good idea. I suppose I might. In fact, I think that the fact that he soldiered on shows what an honest and reliable witness he is.”
“Quite so, Dr4Hire. Quite so.”
“Glad you like it. Would you like me to put that into a report?”
“Certainly. Although you also might want to consider the fact that he visited his GP after the first accident and that he was taking serious amounts of painkillers.”
“Indeed. Yes. Quite so.”

“Now. Turning to the next issue, Dr4Hire. Why didn’t you mention the second accident in your medical report?”
“Because I didn’t want to damage our case.”
“Yes…I understand. Now, let’s see if that can perhaps be phrased more…how shall I put it…independently. Might it be that you considered it such a minor accident as to be irrelevant?”
“Yes, that might very well be. Quite.”


Quite so, indeed. And so it went on. Extraordinary that both the Boss and Dr4Hire will then trot off to court holding themselves out as independent experts in their own fields. Experts? Yes. But only at looking after themselves and making easy money.

Independent? I think not.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post...and very true.

I came across an accountancy expert the other day (fatal accident case). He is a known defence expert.

His report consited entirely of arguments against the figures in the claim. Stangely the only areas he would accept were the ones where no loss was being submitted.

Just before the hearing he accused the deceased of tax fraud and he then produced his own calculations of loss (one day before the trial).

In negotiation I pointed out to the other side that the £375,000 payment the deceased had made before his death was in settlement of a tax bill (the fact that it was paid in January was a give away). This accountant had suggested it was a payment into a secret fund.

I was itching to get him on the box to demonstrate what a partisan fool he was.

We settled - but no thanks to him.

It must be said though that some experts really do understand their duty to the Court and are a credit to their professions.

Anonymous said...

It's incredible that doctors like this have survived even after the Woolf reforms. We all know the odd one though, sadly.

Mark Potter said...

Out of interest, Dr4Hire doesn't fly his own private aeroplane does he?

BabyBarista said...

I would not be at all surprised if Dr4Hire had his own private plane.

john turnbull said...

have just spent the afternoon reading your blog. absolutely superb. thank you baby barista

Anonymous said...

The really amazing thing is that you guys in the legal profession put ANY weight on medical expert witnesses at all. Most of it is as accurate as crystal ball gazing.

In my 21 years as a GP the only thing I believe is that any condition gets far worse if compensation is involved.

Anonymous said...

In all honesty, you are just as well casting bones or crystal gazing as expecting an accurate long term prognosis.

Anonymous said...

My brother is a doctor, who often acts for the defence. He firmly and honestly believes that making a claim is bad for patients. They have to believe themselves to be ill for claim purposes, and this makes them feel iller, with their symptoms lasting longer and feeling worse than would be justified by the physical signs. Very useful beliefs in the circumstances, and you will see why he is not often hired by claimants.

Anonymous said...

spot on - so true!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if one day the Bar Council or GMC will read this blog!

Unfortunately, having experienced the legal and medical professions for some 5 years it is not just one bad egg but a whole batch, and they keep reproducing...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately there are bad-eggs in all professions and "expert witnesses" are no different. Equally, if solicitors and barristers know they are such why do they continue using them? I know of a particular neuropsychologist who very seldom does anything other than defence-side brain injury work, and unless there is such severe brain damage even a lay person could write the report will always say the person has made a good recovery and does not have significant problems, and downplays any ongoing care or support needs identified by plaintiff-side experts. I have been in a number of confererences between counsel and solicitors talking about who to get to do the neuropsychological report on a particular client, and counsel advising to use that particular person only for a defence-side report, but someone else for a plaintiff-side one. If the legal profession was more "honest" those experts would soon be out of business!

Anonymous said...

Most soft tissue injuries get better in a few weeks to at the latest a few months. Certain injuries e.g. shoulder , thumb etc. can take long time 9- 12 months.

Often patients who are recovered because they are sueing disagree with us and say they are no better.

Their solicitors then forward their comment to us and we reply :
' I did not find any significant abnormality in this person...'

that is usually the end of that.

Remember in expert witness work duty is to the court.

Claire said...

mmm

just found this blog and am enjoying reading through it.

but as a solicitor AND 3x rta victim (sadly undercompensated for each!) i disagree with all you people who say that people would get better quicker if they weren't arguing for compensation.

in my case, 2 separate bad whippys on top of a pre-existing cervical spondylosis.


and my right wrist, which my gp didn't offer treatment for, the consultant said would get better - 9 years on, I don't handwrite anything unless i'm forced into it (have been known to point blank refuse!) can't do any fiddly work/activity and hurts all the time.

i think orthopods/gp's have no idea about soft tissue injuries and many don't listen to what is said to them!

love the blog by the way!

Ash Sere said...

I am sitting in chambers right now reading the most appalling medical report right now. There are no conclusions, prognoses or examinations at all. He just regurgitates what the claimant has told him... terrible.

Strange coincidence that I chose to take a quick break and got to this entry in my reading of the blog...