Medical expert signed off longer recovery time for claimant without re-examination

A judge has warned his fellow judges to watch out for personal injury law firm Leech & Co after branding as “misleading” evidence presented by the firm’s medical expert.

The expert, Dr Evans, prepared a report stating that road accident victim Lee Walker needed five months to recover from injuries sustained in a road accident.

When the claimant did not recover within this time frame, without re-examining the claimant, the doctor produced a fresh prognosis the Walker would need 12 months to recover.

In a judgment, handed down at Stockport County Court in July but only just published, district judge Horan stated that the failure to re-examine was “astounding” and of “grave concern … because it is misleading to say the least”.

Horan said that if a doctor has changed his mind at the claimant’s behest, they should prepare a new, separately dated report explaining why they havechanged his view.

“To do other than that is an attempt to mislead, an attempt to mislead the other party and an attempt to mislead the court, and I do not like that one iota,” he said. “An expert has a duty to the court, not to the claimant and not to the claimant’s solicitors. It is unprofessional, very unprofessional.”

Ruling that Walker should pay the defendant’s costs, judge Horan added that he would tell his colleagues to look out for both Leech & Co and Evans.

Solicitors DWF partner Paul Holmes said: “This case is not unique because we are litigating cases now, involving different solicitors and doctors but very similar facts.

“District judge Horan states that if an expert is to change his opinion, then a new report should be disclosed - and crucially that it be made clear that the doctor is changing his prognosis.”

Leech & Co was contacted but did not comment on the judgment.

Pass notes: Walker v Brown

What’s the big issue with this case?
Inflated personal injury recovery times are a growing problem for the insurance industry. Every three months of extra recovery time adds a further £250 to a whiplash claim, Allianz estimated in Insurance Times last year. It says this problem costs the insurer a total of £10m per year.

Have the courts changed their tune?
Courts in the North West, where Stockport is located, have acquired a reputation for being a soft touch on bogus claimants. Therefore, the tough line taken by the judge in this case will be welcome news for the insurance industry.