Expert witnesses have a vital role to play in personal injury and medical negligence cases. However, they may now be too afraid to testify after a Supreme Court ruling reversed over 300 years of legal protection.
Every year, expert witnesses testify in thousands of cases from child abuse, injury and clinical negligence. If experts become too frightened to testify for fear of getting sued, the number of cases heard could be severely limited and fewer people will receive the personal injury compensation they rightly deserve.
The Supreme Court ruling was brought about because of motor cyclist Paul Wynne Jones. Mr Joneswas involved in an accident with a car and as a result he lodged a personal injury claim. His expert witness was a clinical psychologist named Sue Kaney. During the personal injury hearing, Ms Kaney changed her opinion as to whether Mr Jones had suffered post traumatic stress. This resulted in the victim receiving a lower amount of personal injury compensation and so he sued her.
The barrister acting on behalf of Jones said he expected to see maybe five or ten cases lodged against expert witnesses in the coming 12 months.
The associate dean at City university law school said the Supreme Court failed to clarify exactly who this ruling covered. She questions whether it could also cover professional witnesses. If it does, it opens up the possibility of all sorts of witnesses running the risk of being sued.