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The expertise of a neuroscience expert witness is invaluable in understanding neurological disorders in the courtroom in the UK. Neurologists obtain experience and training to assist the legal system in cases that involve neurological disorders. A neurology expert witness’s primary role is highlighting the complexities of different neurological problems, giving the court crucial insights for just and fair legal processing.

Therefore, this article will shed light on various disorders the legal system deals with and the role of a neuroscience expert witness in the courtroom. So, without further ado, let us dive into it:

Importance of Neuroscience Expert Witnesses in the UK Courts

The role of a neuroscience expert witness in the UK courts is to provide the court with expert opinion on the neurological aspects of a case. This may include providing information about the nature of the disorder, the symptoms, the diagnosis, the treatment options and the prognosis. 

Furthermore, the court may also ask the neuroscience expert witness to provide an opinion on the impact of the disorder on the individual’s ability to function in their daily life. Therefore, a neurology expert witness provides the courts with the information necessary for decision-making in cases involving neurological disorders, including, but not limited to, the following: 

  • Dementia
  • Neurodegenerative disease
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Developmental disorders
  • Epilepsy

1. Dementia

Dementia is not a single disease but a group of diseases that can cause these symptoms. It is an umbrella term that covers memory loss, decision-making ability and problem-solving capacity. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s. 

It is primarily a decline in cognitive function severe enough to interfere with daily life. This decline can affect memory, thinking, language, judgement, and other aspects of cognitive ability.

2. Neurodegenerative Disease

According to WHO, millions across the globe develop neurodegenerative diseases. The most common of these diseases are Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Simply put, the disease arises when a neuron in the peripheral nervous system degenerates, i.e., loses its functionality. 

The demographic of older adults suffers from these diseases the most. Although there is no permanent cure, treatments are available to ease the symptoms associated with the disease.

3. Traumatic Brain Injury

A severe blow, bump or jolt to the head results in a traumatic brain injury. It has various causes, such as road traffic accidents, slip and fall accidents, assaults, and accidents at work or home. The injuries can cause short-term or long-term issues depending on the seriousness. It has two types: Penetrating and non-penetrating TBI. 

Penetrating TBI

An injury in which an object pierces inside the skull causing damage to the brain tissue is a penetrating TBI. Only a part of the brain is affected by this injury.

Non-Penetrating TBI

An external force strong enough to move the brain in the skull results in a non-penetrating injury. This injury has causes like car crashes, falls, blast injuries or being hit by an object.

4. Developmental Disorders

Developmental disorders alter the neurological development that affects an individual’s emotional, cognitive and social functioning. These disorders include ADHD, autism, impairments in hearing and vision, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability such as mental retardation and learning disabilities. 

The onset of these disorders starts during the early developmental phase of life; therefore, they are most common in children and adolescents. If the disorder goes undiagnosed or left untreated, it also persists in adulthood. The treatment involves medication and therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapies) and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation).

5. Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that manifests when a group or a cluster of brain cells fire abnormally, leading to seizures. Under normal conditions, neurons send electrochemical signals to other neurons, glands or muscles to generate feelings, thoughts and actions.

A human starts to seize when neuronal signals temporarily get scrambled, resulting in an outburst of electrical activity in the brain. This sudden firing of neurons initiates involuntary movements, emotions and feelings in the body, causing a partial or complete loss of awareness. The primary treatment involves anti-epileptic drugs.

How Does a Neuroscience Expert Witness Make a Difference?

Neuroscience expert witnesses have a great deal of knowledge in the subject matter of neurology. They use their vast experience to formulate a comprehensive report after a thorough assessment of a claimant. A neurologist expert report is either provided to a solicitor or read out loud by the expert witness in the court of protection. The document is presented to make sure the court understands everything in full.

1. Clinical Negligence Cases

In a clinical negligence case, a neuroscience expert witness comments on claimant’s the neurological care. For instance, if the claim is about alleged wrongful misinterpretation of an investigation such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), an expert witness will establish the initial interpretation was negligent. Evidence from a neuroscience expert witness becomes fundamental if a misdiagnosis leads to adverse clinical outcomes. 

There are various causes for neurological injury, including falls, work injuries like machine handling, and falling from a height or getting hit by a falling object. Besides clinical negligence, medical malpractice may also lead to worsening existing neurological disorders in addition to creating new ones. 

2. Personal Injury Cases

In a personal injury case, a neuroscience expert witness assesses the condition and establishes a prognosis. Moreover, the witness also comments on whether or not the event mentioned in the claim contributed to neurological damage.

The expert witness will analyse the cause of your neurological injuries and determine the link between the personal injury and the resulting condition. They will provide an opinion on whether your neurological injuries are directly attributable to the incident. Thus, they will establish the causation and support your claim against insurance companies for compensation.

3. Criminal Legal Proceedings

In criminal cases, a neuroscience expert witness comments on the effects of a neurological disorder at the time of the event. For instance, you would need a neurology expert witness if you fail to provide a specimen because of an underlying neurological disorder. For assessment of blackouts, falling asleep when driving, and establishing contributory effects of a neurological disorder on violent and aggressive behaviour. A specialist example would include commenting on epileptic automation. 

For example, in cases where a defendant has carried out a criminal offence under the spell of seizures and would claim ‘insane automatism,’ an expert witness will provide expert evidence on epilepsy at the time of the crime.

Choosing the Right Neuroscience Expert Witness

When choosing an expert witness for your case, always ensure the candidate has extensive training. Secondly, it is paramount that the witness has dealt with a variety of disorders in children and adults. Lastly, make sure the neuroscience professional can explain complex neurological procedures and technical data and interpret medical opinions presented to them in the court of law.

At Concise Medico, we have a panel of independent neuroscience expert witnesses with all the above qualities. If you require evidence for neurological injury & negligence claims in civil & criminal cases? Our expert witness neurologists can help you get the compensation you deserve by providing medico legal reports and advice.

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