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Expert witnesses face 'major changes'

5 November 2012 - 2:49pm

Physios acting as expert witnesses have been warned of two major changes that could affect their practice.

Solicitor Sana Bibi (above), a partner with Anthony Gold solicitors, has warned physios that the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act could see the budgets for medical negligence cases being cut.
She was speaking at the Medico-Legal Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (MLACP) annual conference on 2 November.
When the Act comes in to force from April next year, both sides will have to produce an estimated cost of their case. If either side objects to the other’s projected budget, a judge will set an acceptable budget at a 'cost conference'.
Ms Bibi warned this could lead to fewer cases being pursued. In addition, physiotherapists and other clinical experts could be asked to justify their charges, while physios would have to work within budgets set by the court.
‘Experts may have to reconsider their fee structure’, she said.
Another speaker at the MLACP conference was Edwina Rawson, a partner with solicitors Field Fisher Waterhouse. She warned that a ruling by the Supreme Court last year meant that expert witnesses in legal proceedings no longer enjoyed protection from liability for negligence.
But she told physiotherapists that this should not deter them from acting as experts.
She advised physios involved in expert witness proceedings to check, and possibly extend, their professional indemnity insurance. They should also attend professionally-run courses on working as an expert witness.


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