How to Choose the Right Expert Witness: Instructing a psychologist

Choosing the right person to act as an Expert Witness in your case can be tricky. Ensuring that your psychologist has the right qualifications and experience to handle the case well is essential. Here are some pointers to help you find the right witness:

Always review your Expert’s CV, and look out for:

  • Registration with professional bodies related to psychology such as the British Psychology Society (BPS). Registration with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) indicates that they are professionally qualified to practise – this is all easily checked online;
  • Registration with professional bodies for Expert Witnesses such as the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the Expert Witness Institute;
  • Your Expert’s CV should show that they are currently in practise (preferably with the client group relevant to your client’s case), and receiving ongoing professional development, training and clinical supervision;
  • Publications and/or research in the field of psychology relevant to your case demonstrating research experience, and awareness of recent advances;
  • Experience, training and ongoing professional practice relevant to Personal Injury. Check that your Expert has carried out previous medico-legal assessments, and prepared reports (most experienced Experts will provide a sample report).

A quick email or telephone call to briefly discuss the case can be useful: Tell them what you need, why you need it, and ask whether they have dealt with similar cases.

Screening questionnaires can be a useful time-saving device when you are uncertain whether your client has suffered a psychological injury. CBT Networks offers a free screening service (see below).

Where to look

Now you know what to look for, the question next becomes, Where to look for it? There are many easy access databases of suitably qualified expert witness psychologists to be found online:

Our Expert Witness – Dr Sian Thrasher

Our resident expert, Dr Thrasher, is a highly experienced Consultant Clinical Psychologist, with 20 years experience in the assessment and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress reactions. She is an experienced Expert Witness in personal injury and medical negligence cases involving emotional reactions to trauma – from RTA’s to negligent medical procedures. Working as both a Clinician and a Witness, Dr Thrasher has an in-depth understanding of medico-legal cases, and has prepared over 500 medico-legal court reports.

She is a member of the HPCP as well as the BPS, and a 1st Tier APIL Expert Witness. She is a member of The Society of Expert Witnesses, and is an accredited and active member of the BABCP (British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies). More than this, she is a strong advocate for evidence-based treatments for reactions to trauma.

In addition to expert witness work, Dr Thrasher provides state-of-the-art psychological treatment for survivors of transport accidents and other traumas. Her research in treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been presented at national and international conferences, and published in academic journals. She has regular clinical supervision and training, ensuring that her clinical skills are up-to-date, and based on most recent research.

Screening questionnaires – take the risk out of instructing your psychologist

At CBT Networks, we offer a pre-assessment screening service whereby Claimants are asked to complete a set of standardized self-report questionnaires designed to help identify symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress, driving phobia, anxiety and depression, and other reactions to trauma. Our Expert Witness, Dr Sian Thrasher, will examine the results of these in order to form an opinion as to whether it is likely that the Claimant has sustained an emotional injury.

Screening is a free service. Response time is fast (can be done by e-mail) and Dr Thrasher is happy to discuss borderline cases over the telephone. A free set of our screening questionnaires is available on request.

What does your expert need from you?

In order for us to accept an instruction, it is essential that you provide the following:

  1. Letter of formal instruction with acceptance of our Terms of business, including our fee rate and payment terms
  2. Clear outline of any deadlines you may be working to
  3. Any medical records or documentation relevant to the case

Dr Thrasher notes, “(The best thing solicitors can do is provide) all the information they have available for their client. It’s useful to have medical records early on, at the point of instruction if possible. This way I can have a better understanding of the Claimant before the assessment interview. It means I can make sure that all of the right questions are asked once I and the Claimant are face-to-face.”

Instructing a psychologist expert witness need not be a challenge, and at CBT Networks we work hard to make sure that, from instruction to client contact and assessment, you and your client feel you are in safe hands.

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