For most physicians in practice, how much they can charge for their services is often determined by reimbursement rates set by the government or insurance companies. Expert witness work is, by stark contrast, a free market with no artificially set rates. A question I am often asked is therefore: How much can a physician expert witness charge? The short answer is that a physician expert witness can charge as much or as little as they choose – as long as the retaining attorney agrees to pay the fee that was requested by the physician expert witness.
How are physician expert witnesses compensated?
Physician expert witnesses are paid for their time, not their opinions. This is an important distinction. What it means is that physicians expert witnesses are not required to say what the retaining attorney hopes they will say. What this also means is that the physician expert witness is entitled to be paid whether or not the case is ultimately won, lost, or settled.
How much can a physician expert witness charge for their time?
A physician expert witness usually charges by the hour. The hourly rate for a physician expert witness is typically in the range of $500-$1000 per hour. This fee is often paid for all time a physician expert witness spends on a case including communicating with the retaining attorney, chart review, deposition and other document review, research, report writing, deposition testimony, trial testimony, and reading and signing a deposition transcript.
How much can a physician expert witness charge for deposition and trial testimony?
Although we do not recommend this practice, it is common for some physician experts to charge a higher hourly rate for deposition and trial testimony. It is also common for some physician expert witnesses to charge a minimum number of hours for depositions – often in the range of two to four hours. For trial testimony, a physician expert witness will often charge as a minimum of a half day (4-5 hours) or a full day (8-10 hours). So it is not uncommon for a physician expert witness to charge $5,000-$10,000/day for trial testimony.
How much can a physician expert witness charge for travel?
How much a physician expert witnesses charges for travel depends upon how the expert in question runs their practice and how much travel is required in the particular circumstances. Some physician experts will charge their standard hourly rate for travel time. Others may charge a flat travel fee for every night spent away. Yet others will charge a lower rate for travel time. Almost all physician expert witnesses charge their actual expenses for out of pockets such as mileage, parking, taxis, airline tickets, hotel rooms, etc. Note that since the pandemic more and more testimony by experts at deposition and trial is given over Zoom. This means that travel charges and expenses are now obviated in many circumstances.
How much can a physician expert witness charge – does it vary by specialty?
Physician expert witness fees do tend to vary by specialty. Specialists tend to charge more than primary care physicians. There are fewer specialists than primary care physicians and how much a physician expert witness can charge is governed by the laws of supply and demand. Demand is also part of the equation governing how much a physician expert witness can charge. Specialists in certain areas, say those who treat traumatic injuries like orthopedic surgeons and physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians tend to be in higher demand. For detailed information about expert witness fees by specialty, SEAK Inc.’s expert witness fee survey is an excellent resource.
How much can a physician expert witness charge in total for work on a case?
How much a physician expert witness can charge for a case depends on a number of factors. First, how many documents/pages of medical chart does the physician expert witness need to review? Some cases, say for alleged medical malpractice in an emergency room, may only involve a handful of records. Others, for example a fall of a long-term resident in a skilled nursing facility, may involve many thousands of pages of records. The greater the number of records, the more time it will take for the expert to go through the records and the greater the total expert witness fees will be.
The other variable that will affect total fees for the case at hand is how long the case goes along before it is dropped, dismissed, settled, or resolved at trial. Physician expert witnesses often are hired by plaintiff lawyers to review potential medical malpractice claims for merit. Far more often than not in this scenario, the physician expert witness will determine that there is no basis for a claim. The total charge for work on the case in these situations may be as low as $1500-$2500. On the other hand, in a case with a large number of records that requires a report and testimony at deposition and trial, the total fees for the case at hand by the physician expert witness could be $40,000-$50,000 or more.
Conclusion – Physician Expert Witness Fees
A physician expert witness is compensated for his/her time. How much a physician expert witness can charge is determined by what the physician expert witness and retaining attorney agree on. Physician expert witnesses typically charge $500-$1000 per hour for their time. If you are interested in getting started as a physician expert witness, a great first step is to download SEAK’s free white paper on How to Start and Build an Expert Witness Practice.
About the Author
James J. Mangraviti, Jr., Esq. is the President of SEAK, Inc. -The Expert Witness Training Company. He is the co-founder of SEAK’s #1-rated Expert Witness Directory. Over the past 26 plus years he has had the pleasure of training thousands of physicians to become expert witnesses and improve their expert witness opinions, reports, and testimony. Jim can be contacted at email@example.com or 978-276-1234.