Choosing an expert who is going to provide you with useful evidence in line with what you instructed and the timeline provided may not always be as straightforward as it seems. Recent case law regarding expert witnesses has made the importance of choosing an expert who lives up to his title as an expert abundantly clear (see eg Thimmaya v Lancashire NHS Foundation Trust or Van Oord UK Ltd and another v Allseas UK Ltd).
These are my top tips for choosing the right skin camouflage expert witness for your case:
- Choose an expert witness who is specialised, experienced and active within the industry
Finding out whether a skin camouflage expert is able to produce good results is a fairly straightforward process and there are a number of things you can check before making a final decision:
- Testimonials or Recommendations
As with anything, a recommendation from a trusted source is worth all the research you can do yourself. My advice would be to talk to colleagues, medical practitioners and other expert witnesses to see if they can recommend anyone – they would have had first-hand experience of the expert witness’s work on the end-client ,as well as the quality of their expert witness reports.
In addition, public feedback in testimonials, on search engines, and even on the expert’s website can give you a good indication of what level of service they provide their clients. (Caveat that many skin camouflage clients are not happy to give up their online anonymity, as their skin concern tends to be a highly sensitive subject. It may not therefore be reasonable to expect a huge number of public testimonials for any given skin camouflage expert.)
- In this profession: evidence from photos
Skin camouflage is by definition a very visual discipline and the results can be captured very well on camera. Again, it may be difficult to gain permission from clients to use their photographs, but a convincing skin camouflage practitioner should be able to share photographs evidencing the results of their work. You may even be able to get a sense of the potential results on scars or pigmentation very similar to the one you have in mind.
Accreditations in this context relate mainly to competence as an expert witness rather than as a skin camouflage practitioner. Whilst there is the British Association of Skin Camouflage, it does not monitor or enforce standards across the profession. Although a graduate member of the BASC will have been well trained, that in and of itself is not enough to tell you much about their current standards. For further information on the expertise of a practitioner, I would recommend checking how long they have actively beein in the profession for, and additionally covering off points (a) and (b) above.
In relation to their expert witness work, however, certain organisations require recommendations by legal professionals to take on experts and these can be trusted to provide some level of peace of mind. They include for example the Expert Witness Institute, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, and the UK Register of Expert Witnesses. There may even be different levels of accreditation depending on the quality or number of recommendations received.
- Choose an expert witness who understands the legal system and is able to draft convincingly
As well as being technically proficient in skin camouflage, you need an expert witness who understand your needs and speaks your language. Many skin camouflage practitioners will have either a medical or an aesthetic background and will not necessarily be experienced in drafting, much less in legal drafting. You can check the level of legal background and/or understanding they have by reviewing their CV or asking for redacted reports. Reviewing other written materials the expert has produced, for example written materials for their website or presentations they have delivered, can also give you a good indication of their drafting style.
- Choose an expert witness you are confident will help your case without being biased in any way.
Of course, a standard conflict check should be part of any expert witness instruction, and skin camouflage is no exception. In addition, an expert witness who acts for both Claimants and Defendants should be able to provide an objective and impartial view.
- Choose an expert witness with empathy who will treat your clients with kindness
In my opinion, so-called ‘soft skills’ are crucial for a skin camouflage practitioner to be successful, and also for you to get the best possible report. During a consultation your client is placed in a very vulnerable position, and is being asked to share their feelings around their appearance in a way that they may not be sharing with anyone else. Displaying kindness and empathy will not only make your client feel more comfortable and at ease, but will make successful rehabilitation more likely. It will, in turn, also ensure that your report is as strong as it can be as a gentle approach will help elicit the client’s stories and true feelings.