An expert witness is a person with special knowledge, skill, experience, training and education, the combination of which goes beyond the experience of ordinary members of the public. Hiring an expert for your case may be worth the money if the stakes in your case are high enough to justify the expense and if the expert is very good, for it can be very expensive to hire an expert witness.
Reasons to Hire an Expert Witness
There are many reasons you might want to hire an expert witness for your case, including the following:
- To educate you and your attorney on the subject matter;
- To evaluate your case and help determine whether it should be brought;
- To test items of potential evidence;
- To conduct experiments to prove or disprove a point;
- To assist you or your attorney in building and developing your case;
- To help prove an element of your case;
- To help determine and calculate the type and/or amount of damages for your case;
- To help the jury understand a piece or pieces of evidence and reach a conclusion on the issues;
- To help explain technical, complicated, or confusing subject matter to the jury; and
- To interpret medical or scientific evidence or data.
Criteria for Selecting an Expert Witness
Although there are no actual rules for selecting an expert witness, the following criteria should be considered:
- Good credentials, including education, degrees, and training;
- Compatibility with your style and your attorney’s style;
- Presentation skills;
- Specific knowledge of the subject matter;
- Publications and/or teaching;
- Certifications and licenses;
- Special honors;
- History and experience as an expert witness;
- Ability to handle tough cross-examination from opposing counsel; and
- Willingness and interest in serving as an expert witness.
A Fair and Reasonable Expert Witness Fee
On its Web site, the Colorado State Bar offers an inclusive list of factors that should be considered in determining what constitutes a fair and reasonable expert witness fee:
- The amount of time spent, including review, preparation, drafting reports, travel, or testimony;
- The degree of knowledge, learning, or skill required;
- The amount of effort expended;
- The uniqueness of the expert’s qualifications;
- The amounts charged by similarly situated experts for similar services;
- The amount of other professional fees lost; and
- The impact, if any, on the expert’s practice because of scheduling difficulties, other commitments, or other problems.
What the Fee Will Cover
After the initial consultation and hiring, an expert witness will typically undertake some or all of the following activities for which he or she will receive payment:
- Review and examination of documents;
- Examination of documents;
- Preparation of report based on review and examination of documents;
- Preparation for deposition;
- Travel to and from deposition;
- Testimony at deposition;
- Preparation for trial;
- Travel to and from trial;
- Testimony at trial;
- Fees for cancellation of any of the above where time was already booked; and
- Costs and expenses incurred for any of the above.
Agreement with Expert Witness Should Be in Writing
The types of services the expert is expected to provide should be typically agreed to in advance in writing, and should address the following issues:
- The scope of services to be performed by the expert;
- The rate of compensation to be paid for the expert’s services, including whether the fee will vary depending upon the services rendered (e.g., research, review of documents, examination, dictating of report, travel, or testimony);
- Whether advance payments or retainers are required and, if so, under what circumstances;
- The handling of costs and expenses;
- Cancellation terms and amounts; and
- The person or persons responsible for payment of those costs and fees.
You will be able to decide whether it is worth the money to hire an expert witness by weighing the balance between how much it will cost to hire an expert witness against the value of hiring an expert witness for your case.