Issue 39 October 2021 - Journal - Page 13
The Future of the
PI Expert Witness 2021
Dr. Mark Burgin BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP
is the author of the new book The Art of PI Medical
Report Writing published by New Generation
Publishing and available on Amazon.
There is an old Chinese curse ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’ and for PI medical experts the last
few years have been very interesting. Experts have
been jailed for contempt of court, sued for tens of
thousands of pounds and subject to a barrage of criticism from the courts. At the same time fees have been
falling as solicitors and agencies take an increasing cut
of a fee that has not changed. It is not surprising that
experts have been looking for easier ways of earning
money and are becoming risk adverse. There are
many roles that are less interesting and place higher
value of the sorts of skills that PI professionals have.
world and are now better known for failing schools
and hospitals. The legal system has also suffered cuts
with legal aid at its lowest level in living memory.
Legal aid was first introduced in 1949 with the welfare state when arguably the UK was poorer than it is
today. How we could afford more in the past when
we had less money is a reason for unhappiness generally e.g. student grants.
The law is at a crossroad, it can either adapt to the
changes and push an agenda of high quality and professionalism or allow changes to cause dumbing
down. There will be (or is) a haemorrhage of the
brightest and best or a refocus on what is important.
Those professions who have allowed the tick box culture to destroy their professionalism are now working
in clouds of toxic stress. My own profession – general
practice is now dominated by peripatetic GPs moving rapidly between practices trying to reduce their
exposure to stress and to survive. GP partners, long
the backbone of the NHS are leaving and their numbers falling when for instance consultant numbers are
As a senior PI expert I have helped many colleagues
improve their reports and make them robust
through my MERA type audits. Improving reports is
not easy because doctors and physios are busy and
find it difficult to keep up to date in their own profession, never mind the law. Legal changes are rarely
easy to understand even for lawyers and knowing
that there is a problem is not the same as being able
to find a solution. Experts find the advice given by
lawyers difficult to put into practice and thus have
seen them as the opposition. It can feel to experts that
they are being sniped at from the side-lines by lawyers
who have never written an expert report themselves.
There is only one solution that will turn the tide and
re-establish the confidence of demoralised PI professionals. It is only when a profession goes back to its
fundamentals and fights against the purposeless work
can motivation return. Purposeless work is a scourge
on our industry and largely imposed by faceless bureaucrats. GPs and solicitors have both tried to keep
their heads above water by employing ever growing
teams to perform those tasks that have no purpose
apart from achieving targets. In PI these teams provide a barrier between the professional and the
claimant so both the professional and the claimant interact with these middle people. Their needs get lost
in translation and one-size-fits-all solutions.
Solicitors are also under increasing pressure and
whilst there are bad apples in both professions, they
are mostly trying to help experts. Solicitors are understandably short tempered with experts who cannot find a solution to their problems. Part of their
frustration is that they do not know how to solve the
issue either and are hoping that the expert has the
answer. Lawyers increasingly feel that whatever they
do the third party will raise complaints such as fundamental dishonesty. As changes to law whittle away
at the bottom-line cutting corners is the only way to
survive. This makes good lawyers feel sad because
they want to do a good job.
Back to fundamentals.
At the heart of all the regulations and protocols and
guidance is the medical expert report which is used
by the court to determine the injuries. It is easy to get
lost in the noise of the advice and miss the point that
is fundamental to any good report. The medical report should be fit for the purpose which it is required.
Any product which is defective should be withdrawn
and replaced with one that it is not defective. This
Getting out of PI.
Many professionals are already taking the steps
needed to get out of PI work such as moving into
other areas of law and many will not return. Gradually depletion the stock of high performing professionals has occurred in many areas of society.
Education and health were previously the envy of the
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