Water Treatment Services experienced expert witnesses provide independent, impartial and reliable advice on a range of engineering and environmental disputes involving regulatory compliance, the use and treatment of water, wastewater, trade effluent and the management of air quality. Our specialists are often asked for their expert opinion and the preparation of specialist reports that can help avoid or resolve disputes, but what does this process involve, and how are such reports used by clients and the courts?
This short guide explains the benefits of involving an independent expert and how they can help resolve disputes. It also looks in detail at the preparation of expert reports, what they are, what they cover, the rules for preparation, and how they are used by lawyers and the courts to settle disagreements.
How can an expert witness help avoid or resolve disputes?
We’ve all been in the situation of having something going wrong with the car or brand new central heating system, and wishing that an expert could come around and sort it out for us. If you get stuck in a stalemate, where you claim that your new heating system isn’t working properly, and the engineering company insists there is nothing wrong, then one course of action is to get an independent expert in to give an impartial view on the situation. This is called an advisory report. This sort of report is never intended to be used in court or as evidence. An advisory report gives the client guidance about how likely they are to be successful should they choose to take the case through the, often expensive legal process.
If the person who has commissioned the advisory does decide to go ahead and take the case to court to claim for damages or other resolution, then they will probably have to employ an Expert Witness to give evidence in court. But the first stage in this process is the production of an expert report.
What is an expert report?
As the name suggests, an expert report is written by an expert in their chosen subject, and gives his or her opinion on the matters which they have been asked about. The report is then used to give the court information on topics which are outside common knowledge and use this information to come to a decision about the dispute before them.
Lawyers representing both sides in a dispute also have access to the expert report. They can use the detail on technical or scientific matters contained in the report to evaluate how strong their case is before the matter is heard in court. Each separate side in a court case might decide to use their own expert witness, in which case both reports will b shared with the other side.
What will an expert report cover?
An expert report will always follow the same general format. Usually, the report will start by stating the facts and assumptions the expert has used in constructing the report, followed by the analysis of the facts and concluding with the opinion of the expert, based on the previously stated facts and opinions. It is good practice to make sure that the facts and opinions are clearly separated on the final report.
Expert reports should be written for a non-expert audience, and readers should be able to follow the logic and reasoning in the report, and see why the expert has reached the conclusions stated. Expert reports by their very nature often contain extremely technical matters, and it’s the skill of the expert to explain these matters in a way which an intelligent non-expert can understand. Acronyms, abbreviations and jargon should be avoided in expert reports.
The expert’s main duty is to the court, they must be impartial in all matters, irrespective of who is paying their invoices.
Expert reports should also contain a brief summary of the instructions which the expert was given when asked to compile their report. It’s always good practice to provide clear instruction to any experts in writing as this is the best way of minimising the risk of any misunderstandings or ambiguity in what is expected.
How should expert reports be presented to the courts?
Often, the expert report will be the main evidence which the expert gives to the court. This is often known as the “Evidence in Chief”. There are many rules around what must be included in an expert’s report, and these can all be found in the Civil Procedure Rules, or CPR. The main requirements of the CPR is to standardise the ways in which reports are laid out.
Experts are required to state all of their relevant qualifications and methodology, as well as declaring which other experts and members of their team have worked to compile the report. Experts are required to state all the information and give an impartial opinion, whether it harms or helps the strength of the case of the side which has paid for the report. The expert’s main duty is to the court and he or she has to be impartial in all matters, irrespective of who is paying his invoices.
Is there a standard format for an expert report?
Expert Reports which are to be used in legal proceedings generally follow a standard format, different from those reports which have been drawn up for other reasons. A good starting point is the model expert’s report which is available from the Academy of Experts. This has been drawn up with the input of senior judges and other members of the judiciary, and is the gold standard when it comes to expert reports in the English and Welsh courts. They also give advice on how to structure and lay out a report to make it readable for a non-expert audience.
The same organisation has also designed a model CV for an expert witness, which can be added into an expert’s report. This gives all of the expert’s qualifications and experience in a standard format which the judges are easily able to evaluate.
What if you don’t agree with the experts opinion?
Firstly, remember that an expert report is supposed to be impartial, and you can’t go back to them and demand that they rewrite their report to paint your case in a better light. However, you should check all of the facts contained in the report, and clarify anything which is factually incorrect.
If you do disagree with the content of the report, then ask your legal representative to go back to the expert and raise your concerns. The expert will then consider your comments, and decide whether to take action. They may decide that their original report stands, as it should contain their own opinion and be independent and impartial, irrespective of whether it harms or supports the case of the person who instructed them. This holds true whether you are asking the expert to add something into the report, or requesting that they leave something out.
The key point to remember is that the expert’s main duty is to provide an independent report to the court, and this always overrides any obligation to paint the party who has instructed them in a positive way.
Expert support for water treatment, engineering and environmental disputes
Water Treatment Services provide independent, impartial and reliable advice on a range of engineering and environmental disputes involving regulatory compliance; the use, analysis and treatment of water, wastewater, trade effluent and air quality.
Our engineering and environmental specialists are highly sought after by the legal profession to act as expert witnesses or independent expert advisors to help avoid or resolve disputes.
Contact us today to learn how our expert witness and engineering advisory solutions can help you avoid or resolve technical disputes.