General Advice – December 2019


When Experts Differ

Although orthopaedic surgeons are usually trained approximately equally, use the same reference texts and examine the same plaintiff contemporaneously, reports can differ wildly.

This can be frustrating for legal representatives and may complicate the process of compensation.

Sometimes, there will be obvious reasons for the differences. Writing to the experts collectively, posing pertinent questions, may evoke a speedy resolution. Court-directed conclaves may be another useful mechanism.

It is often easiest to simply call one or both of the experts, discuss the contentious issue directly and confirm that the differing opinions are truly cognisant of the basic facts.

Over the last three or four years, I have noted an increased tendency for this situation to arise and for supplementary reports to be requested. I can only speculate why this might be the case. It occurs to me though that as the number of orthopaedic surgeons in Australia has increased, and as the surgical workload per surgeon has reduced, more of my colleagues are bolstering their incomes by reinventing themselves as medicolegal reporters. Understandably, some reporters are more competent than others. As competence reduces, so does the risk of error increase.


Whilst there is an obvious risk for conflict in my advice, I suggest you stick with those reporters who have a long, reliable and responsible track record.