Expert witness fees are often determined through negotiation between the expert and the attorney hiring the expert on behalf of a client. Fees paid to experts for testifying in court will vary. Some witnesses charge by the hour or by the day. In some jurisdictions, expert witness fees are set by law. Some other factors that affect expert witness fees including expertise of the witness and the types of services provided.
Some professionals or firms are specifically engaged in the business of hiring themselves out as experts as a fulltime occupation. For instance, some companies provide services to examine financial documents to determine income of a person or a business. Other firms provide experts to perform accident reconstruction. These expert witness fees will typically be higher since the experts are engaged fulltime in providing expert testimony and have a record of accomplishment in past court cases.
Companies that specifically engage in offering expert witness services will negotiate contracts for for the various types of services provided. In other instances, the rates are fixed. In contrast, someone who only testifies on an occasional basis as a sideline to the main occupation — such as an accountant or meteorologist — may charge a lesser fee. The amounts paid to a person serving as an expert often depend on the background of the expert and the lawyer negotiating the fees.
The scope of services that an expert witness provides will also affect how expert witness fees are determined. For example, an expert witness is not limited to providing testimony at trial. A lawyer may need the expert to prepare reports or attend depositions to help the attorney understand an opposing party’s expert. A deposition is sworn testimony given outside of court where a lawyer has the opportunity to question an opposing party and certain witnesses that may testify at trial. In complex cases, a lawyer may need the help of an expert to provide deposition testimony or to raise questions during such process.
The lawyer negotiating with an expert on behalf of a client will typically know how to best structure a fee agreement. The client, however, is ultimately responsible for paying expert witness fees. A client may ask his or her lawyer why a particular expert is needed and how much it will cost. This will allow a client to better understand the process and avoid the possibility of unnecessary legal expenses.