Avoid a lawsuit by following this advice
When it comes to handling word indexes, does your agency fall under one of the following categories?
- You provide word indexes (usually with condensed transcripts) to clients free of charge.
- You provide word indexes (usually with condensed transcripts) for a flat fee (e.g., $25).
- You provide word indexes (as part of standard transcripts) at the same per page rate as you charge for the transcripts themselves.
If you answered “#3,” then you could be vulnerable to lawsuits unless your rate sheet fully discloses your billing policies concerning word indexes.
Lawsuits have already been filed
This is already happening to other firms. Several class action lawsuits are pending in federal courts that contend that court reporting firms are padding their bills by charging full per-page prices for word indexes without full disclosure.
Here are my observations as to why it will be difficult to justify the practice of charging full price without disclosing that up-front:
- The word index is not a part of the record prepared by a court reporter.
- The word index is generated by a computer program, not by a court reporter.
- The court reporter usually is not paid for the word index.
- The total page count is different from what the reporter turned in.
- The client usually isn’t aware of the practice.
I recommend that you go for peace of mind with full disclosure even though it might hurt your bottom line. Include word indexes for free with condensed transcripts, and use that as your marketing edge. You’ll be more attractive to clients and less attractive to lawsuits.