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UK Extra Value Expert Meal: Randomized Selection vs. Special Order

“I’d like Expert Package number four, please, with an engineering background.  Oh, and can I super-size that?”  Sounds strange doesn’t it?  But, that’s how the UK practice of randomized selection feels.  Like you’ve walked up to the counter at a fast food chain, you’re staring at a big menu board, and you’ve got five pre-packaged experts to choose from.  That’s it, only five.  And they’ve been randomly selected for you based on zip code.  It can be thought provoking to analyze the practices used abroad and consider their impact were they to be adopted here. Let’s take a look.

While this five option Extra Value Expert Meal process does not apply to all types of cases in the UK, it has been implemented for low value personal injury cases ─ car accidents with whiplash injuries, basically.  In these types of cases, the search for an expert occurs in what is known as the MedCo Portal - a non-profit system facilitating the sourcing of expert reports.  The search is initiated and the portal UK expert servicesspits out five randomly-selected, accredited experts for you to choose from.  Now, why do it this way?  The intent of the MedCo system was to eradicate the potential for conflicts of interest between the person requesting the expert report and the expert providing it.  Even if it accomplishes this goal, a recent survey has revealed many experts feel the process does not ensure the most suited expert is chosen for the claim.  As one respondent explained, removing the choice of expert means the most appropriate expert may not be chosen because “[e]ach expert has different experience and specialisms within their expertise.”  You certainly want the expert with the right specialisms. 

Let’s take a look at the flip side of random selection.  What happens when a custom expert witness search firm is used?

Instead of walking up to a counter, you talk to a real person who wants to know your precise needs, i.e., what specific credentials, experience and qualifications you want in an expert. Do you want someone with extensive litigation experience or very little?  Would you prefer someone from a certain state or region with a certain appearance or feel? Once your criteria is properly realized, a team of people then searches for the candidates with the required expertise utilizing a vast network of connections and resources. Then comes the hard work. Each expert’s background, industry experience, academic credentials, litigation history, and critical communication skills are evaluated. That information is then assembled for your review and consideration.  Consider it a custom-made package. Every time. All with the right “specialisms” and without the conflicts of interest.

It seems many attorneys and experts would like to see the same customized approach in the UK.  The survey referenced above showed 56% of the experts interviewed opposed randomized selection.  One explanation offered was the reciprocal search for an attorney.  “If I wanted to [hire] a [lawyer] over a personal matter,” said one respondent, “I would choose one who I felt had the skills I needed and with whom I felt comfortable. Why wouldn't a [lawyer] choose an expert on the same basis?”  It’s hard to argue with that.  When it comes to complex matters, “the expert must fit the issue in dispute.” While this is the majority view, that still leaves 44% of the experts surveyed on the fence about randomization, suggesting that it may be a suitable method for certain types of cases.  In fact, a mere 13% of experts positively affirmed that randomized selection of experts is fairer.

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About this Author

Annie Dike, IMS Expert Services, Contributor, Alabama Litigation Lawyer,

As a former Alabama trial and litigation attorney, Annie has a keen eye for expert evidentiary issues and a clear voice for practical solutions.  Annie is a published author of both fiction, non-fiction, and a comprehensive legal practitioner's guide to hourly billing published by LexisNexis.

Annie graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law cum laude.  While in law school, she served as Vice President of both the Bench and Bar Legal Honor Society and the Farrah Law Society and was a member of the Alabama Trial Advocacy Competition Team as...