The Expert and a "Good Dose of Humility"

17th April 2018

Paul Vipond

When the phone rings, the email lands or the letter arrives with a new expert witness instruction it is a reminder that someone thinks you are good at what you do. More than that. That you are better than most. This can of course be an invitation to hubris. Only a sociopath cares nothing for what people think of him or her.

In the field of accommodation expertise, in personal injury cases, there are around 30 experts in the UK. Three of them are due to retire this year. Another three sit within sight of my desk. It could be argued that it is easy to be "a big fish in a small pond".

What Architects and Surveyors, who act as expert witnesses, need to remember when the instruction comes is that someone, somewhere has been hurt. That hurt may be physical, emotional, mental or financial. Sometimes it is all four. It may be the family who has had to live in a garden room for 4 years because their "Grand Design" house lies unfinished 30 feet from their window. Or the baby with brain damage because an overstretched midwifery team didn't spot she was in in distress. Or the young mother without one leg because some young car thief ran her down while being chased by the police.

I am reminded that, in all these cases, whether I am instructed by the claimant or the defendant, I am playing a small part in seeking justice. To help put someone back into the position they should have been. Rectifying or restoring.

In all this I try to remind myself, on a regular basis, and will often say to claimants, that though I have a better understanding than most about the problems faced by claimants and the solutions required by them, that is not the same as saying, "I understand, I know what it is like". I can't. I don't. I don't have a disabled child, I do not have a half-built house. I have not lost a limb or the ability to move.

I have a better understanding than most, but I don't know what it is like. I cannot. So, every now and then I remember to take a good dose of humility. I can recommend it. Sometimes a good expert will tell you, "I don't know the answer to that".


For more information, please visit our personal injury expert witness section of our website.



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