Expert Witness Fee Study
Expert Witness Fees
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Excerpted from the text SEAK, Inc. National Guide to Expert Witness Fees and Billing Procedures
©2004 SEAK, Inc.
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The survey includes responses from over 1,000 expert witnesses in over 300 areas of expertise, from Accident Reconstruction to Wound Care. This is the most comprehensive study ever conducted on expert witness fees.
There was significant variation in fees amongst different areas of expertise. Medical expert witnesses are on average better compensated than non-medical expert witnesses. The average hourly fee for in court testimony for all non-medical experts is $248. The average hourly fee for in court testimony for all medical experts is $555. Medical expert witnesses on average earn more than double (124% more) what non-medical expert witnesses earn. 45% of all responding experts were medical experts and 55% of all responding experts were non-medical experts.
Surprisingly, less experienced experts generally charge more than experienced experts. The median hourly rate for all experts for in court testimony was $300. The median hourly rate for experts who have been testifying 1-5 years was $350 and the median hourly rate for experts who have been testifying 26+ years was $275.
Expert Witness Fees for Trial, File Review and Depositions
On average, experts charge significantly more for their time while testifying at trial and deposition than their time while conducting file reviews and preparing. The average hourly fee for all experts was $385 for in-court testimony, $353 for depositions and $254 for file reviews and preparation. The average hourly fee for trial testimony is 52% higher than the average hourly fee for file reviews and preparation.
Minimum Expert Witness Fees for Depositions and Trial
A majority of all experts (58%) charge a minimum number of hours for depositions and trial testimony. Medical experts are far more likely to charge such a minimum. For example, 72% of medical experts have a minimum deposition charge. Only 46% of non-medical experts have a minimum deposition charge. The median minimum charge for all experts was 3 hours for depositions and 4 hours for trials.
Expert Witness Cancellation Fees for Depositions and Trials
45% of all experts have a cancellation policy whereby they retain all or portion of a deposition or trial appearance fee for cancellation made within a certain specified time prior to the scheduled date. Medical experts are far more likely to have such a cancellation policy. 69% of medical experts have such a policy, whereas only 25% of non-medical experts have such a policy. This may be reflective of a physician’s inability to fill up his/her calendar with patients after cancellation is made on short notice.
Expert Witness Depositions
20% of all experts report opposing counsel having failed to pay them for at least part of the expert’s deposition fee in the last five years. To avoid this situation, 48% of experts require advance payment from opposing counsel for depositions. Where the time of the deposition exceeds that prepayment amount, the vast majority of experts (77%) proceed with the deposition. However, a sizeable minority (23%) obtain payment before proceeding further. 38% of experts who require written retainer agreements include a clause in that agreement whereby retaining counsel agrees to pay for all deposition charges.
Expert Witness Retainers
The vast majority of all experts (73%) obtain some sort of up-front retainer. The median amount of this retainer is $1,500. Non-medical experts are significantly more likely to require a retainer than medical experts. 79% of non-medical experts require an up-front retainer, whereas only 65% of all medical experts require an up-front retainer. Requiring a replenishable retainer is a one way to guarantee payment by retaining counsel. Of those experts requiring retainers, 69% use one time retainers and 31% use replenishable retainers.
A problem commonly faced by experts is being named as an expert in a case for the sole purpose of “conflicting the expert out” and denying the opposing sides the expert. One way to mitigate this problem is to require a nonrefundable retainer prior to reviewing any documents or doing any work on a case. 44% of all experts who require a retainer have their retainer be non-refundable.
Expert Witness Written Fee Agreements
One of the most interesting facts is that less than half (46%) of all expert witnesses require retaining counsel to sign a written retention agreement. Non-medical experts are much more likely to require retaining counsel to sign a written fee agreement (58%) than medical experts (31%).
Expert Witness Collections Troubles
A significant number of expert witnesses reported retaining or opposing counsel failing to pay one of their bills in the preceding five years. Experts were far more likely to report collection difficulties with retaining counsel than with opposing counsel. 46% of all experts reported having retaining counsel fail to pay a bill in the last 5 years, whereas only 20% of experts reported that opposing counsel failed to pay a bill in the last 5 years.
SEAK, INC. NATIONAL EXPERT WITNESS FEE SUMMARY DATA
Responding Experts Witnesses: 1030
Years Testifying: High: 75 Low: 1 Average: 15.6 Median: 15
In Court Testimony (hourly): High: $7500 Low: $75 Average: $385 Median: $300
File Review/Prep (hourly): High: $1000 Low: $0 Average: $254 Median: $240
Depositions (hourly): High: $3000 Low: $0 Average: $353 Median: $300
Min. Charge for Depositions : 58%
Hours in Minimum: High: 12 Low: 1 Average: 3.1 Median: 3
Min. Charge for Trial: 58%
Hours in Minimum: High: 20 Low: 1 Average: 4.2 Median: 4
Cancellation Fee for Depositions or Trial: 45%
Deposition Payment in Advance: 48%
Up Front Retainer: 73%
Retainer Amount: High:$15,000 Low: $150 Average: $1967 Median: $1500
Type of Retainer: Refundable: 54% Partially Refundable: 2% Non-Refundable: 44% One Time: 69% Replenishable: 31%
Depositions That Exceed Paid for Time:
Get Payment before proceeding: 23% Proceed without immediate payment: 77%
Out of Pocket Expenses Marked Up: 19%
Markup Amount: High:40% Low: 3% Average: 14% Median: 15%
Out-of Pockets Billed For:
Airline Tickets: 83%
Telephone Calls: 38%
Demonstrative Aids: 48%
Travel Billed Portal-to-Portal: 86%
1st Class Airfare Required: 10%
Require Signed Written Fee Agreement: 46%
Terms Contained in Expert Witness Fee Agreement:
Lawyer is responsible for fee, not lawyer’s client: 66%
Interest for delinquent accounts: 55%
Out-of-pocket expense policies: 78%
Retainer/prepayment requirements: 83%
In-court testimony minimum fees: 59%
Retaining counsel will pay for all deposition charges: 38%
Fee schedules: 82%
Attorney’s fees if forced to sue for collection: 48%
Portal-to-portal travel time: 62%
Deposition minimum fees: 52%
Payment for preparation time: 65%
First class air travel: 10%
Majority of Work: Plaintiffs: 23% Neither: 57% Defendants: 20%
Type of Expert: Medical: 45% Non-Medical: 55%
Retaining Counsel Failed to Pay Last 5 Year: 46%
Opposing Counsel Failed to Pay last 5 Year: 20%
The book details:
- Summary of expert witness fees and billings by specialty area
- State-by-state summary of expert witness fees and billing procedures
- Individual expert witness fees and billing procedures
- Hourly fees for file review depositions and trial testimony
- Retainer types and amounts
- Prepayment policies for trial and depositions
- Out-of-pockets billed for and whether and how out-of-pockets are marked up
- Terms contained in written fee agreements
- Cancellation fees
- Minimum charges for depositions and trial
- Billing procedures for travel time
- History of collection difficulties with retaining and opposing counsel
- Detailed statistical information, analysis and more
Click to download the updated 2014 Expert Witness Fee Guide