Practical guidance to give to experts

This guidance is for use by experts. Please direct them to this page so they are aware of our policies to prevent difficulties at the account stage. It can also be used for your own reference to help understand and explain their role.

What information will you be asked for?

When a solicitor seeks and obtains prior approval from us for commissioning an expert opinion our assessment of this is based on the work anticipated.

If approved, this results in an expenditure limit being identified which is the maximum amount we will pay. It is not an agreed price or agreement that the expenditure limit will be the amount paid.

After the work is done, our staff must assess the cost of the actual work carried out. Where a cost is incurred for an expert opinion this is known as an outlay.

We are bound by a statutory framework which details various tests to be carried out by staff to assess the extent to which outlays have been actually, necessarily and reasonably incurred.

Without a breakdown and associated evidence to allow the tests to be carried out, staff will not be able to approve payment.

Invoice format – what to include in your invoice to the solicitor

We require the following key information in order to assess all claims:

  • the client’s name and the legal aid reference number – this will be provided by the solicitor
  • details of the travel and other expenses incurred which should include where you have travelled to and from
  • the time spent in the perusal of necessary papers and what these were e.g. medical records
  • the time spent on any assessment/examination
  • the time spent preparing the report
  • details of the report length e.g. number of pages.

The invoice must also detail the dates the work was undertaken. This is essential as payment is based on when the appropriate legal aid cover is in place. If the work was carried out at a stage where the solicitor had not got the necessary cover they are responsible for your fees.

Are there any items we will not pay for?

Our policies set out various costs which will not be covered:

  • secretarial fees (including typing), postage or general administrative charges as these are part of the office overheads
  • arranging meetings/appointments as this is also covered by office overheads
  • standard material for example; including CVs, references to publications or attachments of standard material
  • proof reading/checking the report although it is expected that this will be done to check for accuracy before submitting the report to the solicitor
  • research is separate to providing references/authorities in support of opinions which is covered in the time for preparing the report. See the section below (Why do we not normally cover costs associated with research?) for further information.

Are there any exceptions to providing a detailed invoice?

In some limited circumstances we will not require an invoice to be broken down. These are:

  • GP reports costing up to £80
  • NHS Consultant reports up to £450
  • Mental Health Tribunal reports costing between £350 and £450. This is inclusive of all travel and mileage costs. Where more distant travel is involved (e.g. Inverness and Aberdeen) we will pay up to £500 without the need for a breakdown. This is inclusive of all travel and mileage. In all situations we expect solicitors to instruct someone local where possible
  • AWI reports from non-treating professionals – reports between £100-£185. This is inclusive of all travel and mileage and excluding VAT
  • AWI reports from treating psychiatrists and GPs – no detailed invoice is required but we will not pay more than £80 for an AWI1 report from a professional involved in the patient’s care. This is inclusive of all charges.

Why do we not normally cover costs associated with research?

In the same way that a solicitor will not normally be entitled to payment in respect of researching the law, a person employed in their capacity as an expert will not normally be allowed a fee for research from us because:

  • the person carrying out the work is assumed to have sufficient expertise in the relevant areas in which they practice as an expert witness
  • researching is not necessarily specific to the case and, as such, may be considered as the expert developing their own knowledge of that particular area which can be used in other cases.

The time in adding to professional development is not something which can normally be charged to the client or form part of the claim.

However, time spent researching a very unusual or unique aspect in particular case may be allowed in exceptional circumstances. There must be something in the case that raises it above the norm in order to justify research on this ground.

In these instances the reasons for this should be recorded by you explaining why this was necessary having regard to the individual circumstances of the case.

A claim not backed up by this information will result in us querying it further and withholding payment until you provide clarification.

Travel and other expenses

We calculate travel costs based on the method of transport and the time taken.

You must provide receipts for all expenses incurred – if no receipt is produced then no payment will be made.

When travelling, the form of transport that results in the most economical total cost must be used although the time taken to travel should be balanced against the transport cost.

For example, the cheapest method of travelling may not be the best option if the travelling time takes longer and results in a higher total travel-related cost than a quicker option.

We will expect the main costs to relate to your work rather than to travel and may seek further information if there is significant proportion of cost related to travel. You should identify and be able to provide reasons which relate to the specific nature of the work commissioned if multiple journeys have been made.

Key points

  • half the hourly rate will paid for necessary travel
  • rail travel will be paid at standard fare only. If you have decided to travel in first class we will restrict the claim to the amount of standard fare
  • the solicitor must get our permission in advance for an expert or professional to travel by air. Economy flights should be used where possible. However, in some cases it may be more appropriate to have a flexible ticket if there is a possibility of the dates changing.
  • we will pay up to £113.56 per night for an overnight stay, inclusive of bed, breakfast and an evening meal
  • we will not pay for any costs for alcohol, newspapers, telephone calls and all sundries to be borne by the expert/professional
  • no subsistence is payable for lunch
  • Mileage will be paid at 45p per mile if you decide to use your private vehicle. The only exceptions to this are for interpreters and criminal cases where separate rates apply.

Cancellation fees

How will we decide whether to cover cancellation fees?

Payment of cancellation fees will depend on the circumstances of the particular case.

For example, the following factors will be relevant:

  • amount of notice: we would treat it as reasonable if fewer than two days notice has been given to you informing you that your attendance is no longer required
  • how the cancellation affected normal business: we would assess whether you were able to resume your normal business; or had undertaken any other work  on the days affected, depending on the notice given

What can be covered by cancellation fees?

Payment will be restricted to a maximum of two days fees based on a normal court day, not exceeding six hours.

If you incurred non-refundable expenses for accommodation, rail or air fares, receipts will need to be produced before payment can be considered.

In instances where a locum has been used, we will pay for either your own or the locum’s fee but we will not pay for both.

We will also need to know whether a locum had been appointed to cover your absence and if this affected you in returning to your practice.

If the locum’s costs are being claimed for we will need sight of the practice’s terms and conditions of temporary employment; or any written contractual arrangement with the locum confirming the agreed rate for their services and the period that this covers.

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