This personal injury case settled for $75,000 plus costs and disbursements recognizing the claimant’s loss of quality of life. The remaining dispute however was over the  Claimants costs for hiring a booking agent to find a medical expert (Ross v. Logan, 2014 BCSC 548) .
Taking a personal injury case to trial in British Columbia often requires employing medical experts. This case confirms that it is a reasonable cost to hire an agency to help a claimant find an appropriate expert. The court  increased the hourly rate because there was a booking agent involved.
The court however has an obligation to assess proportionality and ,

“…if the court blindly approves accounts because that is what the plaintiff has agreed to pay, there will be no limit to what the service providers will charge. Here is a clear message from the court that the market will not bear a $900-an-hour rate for a fairly simple medical-legal opinion.”

The claimant suffered injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident in Kelowna BC which included soft tissue injury to her neck, back and arm, and in particular her right shoulder. Lawyers agreed that it was necessary to employ the services of a booking agency in order to obtain an available expert in time for trial.  As the judge points out,

[30]  In evaluating the reasonableness of the charge, I am provided a wide measure of discretion. However, as Madam Justice Dardi wrote in Smith v. Moshrefzadeh, 2013 BCSC 1623, the discretion must be exercised judicially in a principled way consistent with theSupreme Court Rules and not arbitrarily or capriciously. It is fine for me to say in chambers that a $900-an-hour charge seems high, but in exercising my discretion, I must set out for the litigants what I am comparing that fee to.

Personal injury claimants are at particular financial disadvantage because the market for medical expertise is almost completely unregulated and medical booking agents do sometimes charge up to 900.00 per hour. The British Columbia Medical Association, BCMA,  Guidelines 2014 may be voluntarily followed by some doctors but this is almost never the case for independent medical examinations. Registrar Sainty’s comments at paragraph 5 of Dosanjh v. Martin,2001 BCSC 1759 are particularly relevant:

…experts charge what they charge. In my view, the defendant should not be rewarded (and the plaintiff penalised) by a registrar reducing expert fees except in cases where there is clearly an overcharge or it is determined that the fees were unreasonable…

The practical difficulty in this application was that the medical booking agent did not disclose the actual cost charged to act as a booking agent.  The court did however provide some guidance, “In the future, if they wish to claim a surcharge, they should particularize it in their bill and provide supporting evidence. I have increased the hourly rate for this account because I know there was a booking agent involved.”
This case does not address the compounding financial inequality faced by personal injury claimants as claimants are still required to employ experts to prove their cases. Watch our short video to learn about how private health care costs are addressed in personal injury cases:

Issue: Should the cost of uninsured medical services be Regulated in BC?
Posted by Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.

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