Revised Rule on Expert Witness Fees

The North Carolina Industrial Commission (IC) has been busy over the past several months rewriting and readopting ALL of their workers’ compensation rules in accordance with a 2011 General Assembly directive. The North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) assisted the IC with this work, and was well-positioned to recommend changes that would improve the system for physicians who care for sick and injured workers. We are pleased that the IC followed many of our recommendations.

To help our members understand the updated rules and how the changes may impact their practices, we’ll be highlighting one new or revised rule each week in the Bulletin. This week we’d like to discuss the revised rule on expert witness fees.

The Industrial Commission has adopted a new rule intended to pay physicians, who serve as expert witnesses in deposition for workers’ compensation cases, more quickly and accurately. 

When a physician-expert participates in a deposition, he/she is entitled to request an expert witness fee.  The request may account for preparation time and time spent in the actual deposition.  The IC reviews the request for reasonableness and has the authority to adjust the fee.  After approving the expert’s fee, the IC typically issues an order that the employer pay the fee.  This has not changed.

However, changes to Rule 613 now require defense counsel to submit to the IC the physician-expert’s fee request within ten (10) days of a deposition.  Once the IC approves the request, the fee must be paid to the expert within thirty (30) days.  Failure to pay within 30 days will result in a 10 percent charge to be added to the expert’s fee.  Previously there was no prompt pay requirement or penalty. 

Moreover, experts can now request fees when a deposition is cancelled within five (5) days of the originally scheduled date. 

The defense attorneys and business community objected strenuously to these provisions, but the Medical Society was there to ensure that these provisions were preserved and fully adopted.

NOTE: Even though the rule has been adopted, it is not expected to take effect until later in 2013.


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