LEAD ARTICLE – MARCH 2020
Medicolegal Report Invoices – When Should They Be Paid?
There is no hard or fast rule on this matter and I understand that commercial pressures will push and pull in different directions. The “no win, no fee” group in our community would probably prefer to defer payment of expert opinion invoices until final resolution. This would involve an expectation upon the expert to similarly carry the case and accept that payment may never actually eventuate.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the Nominal Defendant and Statutory Authorities ruled by bureaucrats who are not spending their own money. Instead, they are relying upon the taxpayer to fund the endeavour. Paying now or later is probably of no great consequence.
A third consideration relates to the potential for bias. Whilst every plaintiff hopes for a report that will be overwhelmingly supportive on the issues of causation, liability, future economic loss and future therapeutic needs, that is not always the case. A plaintiff who reads a disappointing report may be less inclined to pay an invoice than a plaintiff who has not been so alerted. Additionally, a reporter who can pre-empt this possibility for non-payment, might be more inclined to be benevolent with the opinions expressed.
For what it’s worth, I have always insisted upon payment in full before the report is released. I do see the plaintiff and prepare the report without payment and therefore, some risk is absorbed. As a prelude, I do request an undertaking from the soliciting party to be responsible for my reasonable fees. This usually works. Very occasionally, I have to chase the tardy debtor.
Whichever course you follow, it is important to be transparent about the approach that you have adopted. I reiterate that there is no right or wrong. It is simply a matter of doing what you think is best.