Expert witnesses are essential to appealing a case before the License Appeal Tribunal (LAT), but they can have severe implications for your disbursements if you are not careful.
You may recall from earlier blogs that disbursements are third-party expenses you will pay following the successful resolution of your case. Disbursements are in addition to legal fees, which lawyers charge for the legal services they provide to you for a claim. Disbursements will include the cost of retaining an expert witness.
Expert witnesses specialize in their given field and will give their opinion before a court or a tribunal. A medical expert who testifies in the LAT process provides a medical opinion about an applicant’s injuries concerning a treatment plan, attendant care benefits, income replacement benefits, and even catastrophic impairment determination.
While having such expert witnesses helps bolster your case before the LAT, they can present substantial accounts for their work. Depending on the lawyer you choose, your expert fees can increase over time. Working with a lawyer who pays your expert fees quickly ensures you are not unnecessarily increasing your disbursement account—from interest on overdue accounts—which will be deducted directly from any future settlement of your accident benefits.
Table of Contents
- What do expert witnesses and third-party medical experts do for a case?
- How much do expert fees cost?
- Is the applicant the one who pays?
- Why are certain expert fees substantially higher than others?
- What happens to my expert fees if the LAT denies my appeal?
- What does Roger R. Foisy & Associates do to help?
What do expert witnesses and third-party medical experts do for a case?
When you participate in a LAT hearing, three types of witnesses participate:
- Lay witnesses, like family members and coworkers, know firsthand how an applicant’s function has been affected by the motor vehicle accident
- Treating witnesses, like family doctors, psychologists, and occupational therapists
- And Expert witnesses, who are retained by both you, the applicant, and the insurance company, the respondent
An expert witness is a person permitted to provide their expert opinion because of their unique knowledge and proficiency in a related field to the case – in LAT cases; these are often medical experts.
Expert witnesses are generally asked to answer a mix of legal and medical questions regarding your case. For example, experts may be asked to comment on a legal test or definition that an applicant has to meet to qualify for a particular benefit or to respond to whether an applicant’s requested treatment plan is considered reasonable and necessary for their injuries.
At Roger R. Foisy & Associates, we regularly use experts to comment on whether our client meets a medical-legal definition that renders them catastrophically impaired.
How much do expert fees cost?
The use of experts in a LAT appeal is an important consideration. For one, they can help you prove that a pre-existing condition did not cause your injury; or help to support the need for specific treatment and rehabilitation.
When your legal and medical team believes that your injuries from your motor vehicle accident have rendered you catastrophically impaired, insurance companies will cover up to $2,000 for a single medical expert assessment.
You will often need several expert assessments completed for a catastrophic impairment determination. Suppose you require six different assessments, which could include assessments from a neurologist, an orthopaedic surgeon, an odontologist, a psychiatrist and occupational therapists. In that case, the insurance company could pay up to $12,000 ($2,000 each) for those assessments. However, these expert assessments usually cost more – closer to $5,000-7,000 each. Applicants must realize they become responsible for the fees outside the insurance company’s payments.
If each assessor charges $7,000 and insurance covers only $2,000 of those fees, the applicant becomes responsible for the remaining $5,000 from each assessment. In our example, that would amount to $30,000 outstanding, owed by you!
Remember, though, this is only for a report regarding the determination of catastrophic impairment. Experts who testify in a LAT appeal hearing charge additional fees. Experts generally charge 1-2 hours to meet with your lawyer, 2-3 hours of individual preparation and usually testify before the LAT for half a day (3-4 hours). Depending on an expert’s hourly rate, a client can expect an expert fee to be as low as $1,200 to as high as $10,000 for testifying.
Is the applicant the one who pays?
When appealing to the LAT, we highly recommend that the applicant works with a law firm that will pay their expert fees within 30-90 days upon receipt of an expert’s invoice to avoid accruing unnecessary interest. These expert fees will become a part of the disbursements your lawyer will charge you for their services after the resolution of your case, be it a settlement or a hearing.
Why are certain expert fees substantially higher than others?
Expert fees are usually charged to a law firm upon completing the expert’s service (i.e., a medical opinion report or testimony before a tribunal). If a law firm does not have enough funds to pay the invoice immediately, the expert or law firm may often connect with a litigation loan company that will ensure their fee is paid immediately. That loan company will often act as a creditor charging interest on the invoice paid to the expert on your behalf. Upon resolving your matter, you will now be required to pay the loan company for the cost of the expert report and the interest accrued during this time. This amount becomes a disbursement which will be deducted from the overall monies you can expect to receive from any decision or settlement of your case.
In cases where litigation loan companies are not involved, experts will often charge a more significant fee if they know a law firm will take longer to pay its invoice while it waits to settle. In these situations, these increased fees also become part of your disbursements.
What happens to my expert fees if the LAT denies my appeal?
In this situation, your law firm will still use the expert information in your case outside of the LAT forum, against the person who was at fault in your vehicle accident, as the information obtained will help to win your case.
When your case is settled, the costs for these third-party expert witness fees will be claimed as a disbursement in that case and become payable from your settlement or judgment.
What does Roger R. Foisy & Associates do to help?
Roger R. Foisy & Associates does not use litigation loan companies to pay for experts. They pay each expert within a 30-90 day period from the receipt of the expert report. This ensures that the expert does not have to incorporate additional costs into the invoice. It is well understood that in the personal injury field of practice, experts who are expected to wait to be paid for their services often charge more for their legal opinions. If it takes anywhere from six months to three additional years to settle a case from the delivery of the expert opinion, how much extra will an expert be charging while they wait to be paid for their expert services?
Our law firm team members are trained to ensure that when you only obtain the services of third-party experts you require to prove your claim, you will not pay for more expert assistance than you need. Our lawyers use strategy and consider the many factors of your case to decide when and whom we obtain as third-party experts. We do not treat you as part of a transaction but prioritize working on your case as effectively as possible.
We pledge that the job is done right, and our project management processes save you money in the long term. Our methods to keep you from paying extensive and unnecessary expert fees can help you save tens of thousands of dollars in disbursements.
Are you looking for a lawyer to assist you with your LAT appeal? Contact us for a free consultation. Roger R. Foisy & Associates is a team with extensive experience in handling complex personal injury and accident benefit cases and are lawyers for the people who fight to receive maximum dollars for their clients.
Roger R. Foisy, Harpreet S. Sidhu, and Daniel Berman are Ontario Personal Injury Lawyers with extensive experience in motor vehicle accident cases before the LAT and courts. They are strongly supported by Rusald Laloshi, a senior paralegal who has also represented many clients before the LAT. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, please get in touch with us for immediate support and a free consultation.