The use of experts to assist with life expectancy

Date published

20/03/2020

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Life expectancy is a key factor in high value cases given its impact on multipliers. It is therefore unsurprising that over the last few years, clashes between parties on the issue of life expectancy experts has intensified.

Where life expectancy is likely to be an issue, the courts preference is to be guided by the clinicians and in many cases, the views of the clinicians should be adequate to determine life expectancy issues. However where there are obvious non-accident related factors, such as alcohol, smoking, or being overweight, which are likely to impact upon life expectancy, the opinion of a life expectancy expert will be required, although two recent cases have provide some much needed clarity.

Clinicians v life expectancy experts

In Mays v Drive Force (UK) Limited [2019], the court allowed the parties to adduce expert evidence on the claimant’s life expectancy because the claimant, who was claiming substantial damages, also suffered a number of co-morbid conditions as he was a smoker who suffered from high blood pressure, obesity and ulcerative colitis.

In this case, the claimant unsuccessfully resisted the involvement of the defendant’s statistics-based expert evidence to determine life-expectancy. The judge concluded that this kind of expert evidence might assist the case, given the number of potential co-morbidities and given that the neurology experts had not felt able to address the impact of them all. The court also noted that as this was a high-value claim, such evidence might make a significant difference to quantum.

Shortly after Mays, a further case, Dodds v Arif and Aviva Insurance [2019], provided guidance on whether it is suitable for bespoke life expectancy evidence to be obtained. Here, the defendant sought leave to rely upon the evidence of a physician to comment on life expectancy. In this instance, the court refused the defendants confirming that:

  • Where the injury does impact life expectancy, the “normal” route is for evidence via the clinical experts.
  • Permission for “bespoke” life expectancy evidence will not normally be given unless the clinical experts cannot offer an opinion at all or state that they require specific input from a life expectancy expert.

Comment

Life expectancy is a vital issue in catastrophic injury claims and the right experts needs to be instructed to address it. It is sensible for parties to adopt a collaborative approach and to flag with other parties as soon as possible where life expectancy experts are going to need to be involved. Such an approach is likely to find favour with the courts if the matter does need to be determined by the courts.

Read others items in Personal Injury Brief - June 2020

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