What is an expert report, and when would I need one?

Here you can learn about what an expert report is and when one should be requisitioned

The expert report is one of the most important pieces of evidence in a personal injury case. In this post, we will explore more about its nature and function.

Expert reports are needed because independent verification of the injury(ies) is required. Some injuries are easier to prove; for example, objective injuries such as a fractured bone can be verified by an X-ray or medical records. Other injuries are harder to prove; for instance, subjective injuries such as chronic headaches are established by expert opinion.

Types of Expert Reports

Type Subject Author
Economic loss report
  •  Future income loss
  • Loss of competitive advantage
  • Accountant
Medico-legal report
  • Psycho-emotional pain (e.g. depression)
  • Physical pain (e.g. headaches)
  • Psychologist or psychiatrist
  • Neurologist specializing in the area of treatment
Accident reconstruction report
  • Liability
  • Safeness of roadway
  • Forensic engineering firm

A party does not have to use an expert report it commissions, but ones he/she does choose to use in the proceeding must be served on the opposing side. Legal service ensures a fair proceeding by giving prompt notice of the evidence. The time requirements for service are set out in Rule 53 of the Rules of Civil Procedure (or “Rules”). For the plaintiff, the report must be served on the defendant at least 90 days before the pretrial (Rule 53.03(1)). For the defendant, the time requirement depends on whether the report is in reply to a plaintiff expert report: if yes, it must be served at least 60 days before the pretrial; if no, it must be served at least 90 days before the pretrial (Rule 53.03(2)).

The expert’s duty is not to any one party but to the court and includes giving evidence that is “fair, objective and nonpartisan” (Rule 4.1.01(1)). This duty prevails over any obligation owed by the expert to the party with whom he/she is engaged (Rule 4.1.01(2)).

The formal requirements of an expert report are that it include: the expert’s name, address and areas of expertise; the expert’s qualifications and employment and educational experiences in his/her area of expertise; the instructions provided to the expert in relation to the proceeding; the nature of the opinion being sought and each issue and, where there is a range of opinion given, a summary of the range and the reasons for the expert’s own opinion within that range; the expert’s reasons for his/her opinion; and an acknowledgment of the expert’s duty (in Form 53) signed by the expert.

The defence may commission its own expert report and, absent unreasonable requests, it is obligatory to attend appointments with defence medical experts.

If a case proceeds to trial, the expert opinion(s) of both sides may be contradictory. Each counsel has an opportunity to call the other expert as a witness in order to ask questions to explore the truth and expose inaccuracies or weaknesses in the opposing side’s report.

Examples of weaknesses in a defence medical report include if the expert only saw you once or for a very short period of time or if they reached a completely different conclusion than your treating practitioners.

Factors that we consider when selecting an expert is whether they testify for both plaintiffs and defendants (an indicator of impartiality) and their qualifications and experience (indicators of credibility and reliability).