Private versus Public funded Expert Witnesses
When receiving an enquiry or instruction from a solicitor the first distinction to make is that of work that is publicly funded, usually by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), and that which is being paid for privately. In the case of publicly funded work the review of funding arrangements in 2011 (CLICK HERE to read our articles about this) made some fairly drastic changes to how much experts are paid for their work, and in the case of court attendance where cancellation is with a minimum of 72 hours notice, that they would not be paid at all. Although the LAA contract is with the solicitor not the Expert Witness, it is the duty of the instructing party to make you aware of the restrictions of the contract that they have with the LAA and for you to accept these or not.
Privately funded Expert Witness work is not subject to these restrictions and it is therefore up to the Expert and the instructing party to agree terms prior to instruction. This includes fees as well as terms and conditions. In many Personal Injury cases solicitors will ask if you are prepared to agree to “deferred payment” with regard to settling your fees. This generally means that your fees will only be paid at the conclusion of the case, and this can mean months or even years after you have submitted your report. An alternative form of funding, again particularly prevalent in Personal Injury cases, is what is known as a “Conditional Fee Arrangement” or “No win No Fee”. This is where your fees are only paid if the case is won by the firm who are instructing you. We would strongly recommend against accepting such arrangements, as this could be seen to undermine your position as an Independent Expert who’s overriding duty is to the Court.