Demystifying Financial Expertise

Taking instructions from solicitors for both claimants and defendants, and occasionally as a Single Joint Expert (SJE) or a court-appointed expert, I’ve honed my skill in delivering focused expert witness reports.

The reality is that not everyone relishes the thought of delving into the details of finance, business, accounting and tax, such subjects can make some people’s eyes glaze over. It’s about making the complex understandable. That’s why I focus on delivering reports that are pointed and readable.

Case Study

Navigating A Business in Transition
An example that comes to mind was a long-running case compounded by the claimant’s poor health. This was a case involved a business claimant, they had been about to take over the reins of a small business but became ill following an accident and were unable to work in that role.

The Approach: Precision and Brevity

The forensic task ought to be straight forward enough, there needs to be a suitably thorough review of the business, including past and future trading prospects and potential for changes.

I reviewed the evidence and prepared, a balanced report. Loss quantum was addressed, using able-bodied and disabled multipliers. The report was focused into 25 pages.

Responding to the Challenge

The defendant’s expert, in turn, produced a report that mostly agreed with my analysis and findings but introduced a few alternative future loss scenarios.

Had the matter run to an expert’s meeting, I am pretty sure that I would have agreed with ‘the defendant’s’ counter-proposed scenario calculations. Leaving the issue of which scenario best fitted for the judge, as it was essentially an issue of fact.

The Need for Conciseness

As those that know me can attest, I am not usually lost for words – but this time I was. The defendant’s expert report came to a 200 pages. 

The creation of an expert report is no small feat, and the diligence behind a 200 page document is commendable. However, the essence of good expert witness reporting lies not only in assessing vast information but also in the ability to distil it into its most potent and readable form.

Civil Justice Council Guidance

The Civil Justice Council (CJC) guidelines on defendant expert’s responding reports, issued in August 2014 are clear: responding reports should be succinct and should not unnecessarily replicate information. Instead, they should focus on confirming what’s agreed  and detailing critical differences.

In particular, paragraph 63 says that the defendant’s expert’s report should:

a. confirm whether the background set out in the claimant’s expert report is agreed, or identify those parts that in the defendant’s expert’s view require revision, setting out the necessary revisions. The defendant’s expert need not repeat information that is adequately dealt with in the claimant’s expert report;

b. focus only on those material areas of difference with the claimant’s expert’s opinion. The defendant’s report should identify those assumptions of the claimant’s expert that they consider reasonable (and agree with) and those that they do not; and

c. in particular where the experts are addressing the financial value of heads of claim (for example, the costs of a care regime or loss of profits), the defendant’s report should contain a reconciliation between the claimant’s expert’s loss assessment and the defendant’s, identifying for each assumption any different conclusion to the claimant’s expert.

What’s clear is the CJC didn’t intent for responding expert’s reports to essentially replicate the whole of the initial report and calculations, and neither should it append copies of disclosed financial documents, when there is already an undisputed summary.

It’s about striking the right balance—enough detail to substantiate the analysis, but concise enough to remain accessible and focused. This is what I aim to achieve in every report I draft, adhering to the principle that ‘less is more’ when it comes to clear communication in the legal context.

Thankfully, for all concerned, in this case the claim settled at JSM but it would have been fascinating for it to have run to trial.

20 Page Limit On Intermediate-Track Claims

This case study was a Multi-Track claim but had it been an Intermediate Track claim, and post 1 October 2023, both experts would have had to have been mindful of (the new) CPR Rule 28.14 (3)(c), which imposes a 20-page limit on expert reports in Intermediate-Track claims, ranging from £25,000 to £100,000 in value. See my previous blog on this recent amendment for my thoughts on that.

Keeping It Simple

In all my years of reporting, I have always tried to follow one guiding principle when it comes to reporting – KISS otherwise known as: Keep It Simple Stupid.

How Formby Forensics Can Help You

Whether you are a solicitor advancing or defending a Serious Injury, or Fatal Accident, claim – and would like assistance with Loss Quantum, please do get in touch.

Contact Us

At Formby Forensics, we’re passionate about helping our clients and we’d love to chat with you about the best approach to take. Don’t hesitate to reach out – we’re always happy to help – get in touch now with Richard or Harriet.

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