© 2022 SEAK, Inc.

By: James J. Mangraviti, Jr., Esq.


Serving as a physician expert witness can be a rewarding way to apply your medical knowledge and experience, improve your communication skills, make yourself a better clinician for your patients and significantly supplement your clinical income.  Most of the work consists of chart review, research, opinion forming and report writing – which can be done from home.  Time spent as a physician expert witness is compensated at $500-$1000/hr. Options for obtaining case referrals include networking, direct outreach to attorneys and advertising.  The key to long term success in this field is doing a great job and earning positive word of mouth from your attorney clients.

Benefits of Serving as a Physician Expert Witness

Physician expert witnesses of all medical specialties are needed to help resolve legal disputes.  Physician expert witnesses help lawyers, judges and jurors understand medical issues that may be relevant in the case at hand.  A physician expert witness is asked by lawyers to work on a variety of cases including personal injury, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, patent disputes, criminal matters, and even will contests and other types of lawsuits.  Issues a physician expert witness may be asked to offer opinions on include:

  • medical diagnosis of an injured person;
  • standard of care;
  • necessity of medical care;
  • competency to stand trial or execute a will;
  • criminal insanity;
  • sentencing mitigation;
  • prognosis;
  • future care needs;
  • disability;
  • and the cause of a person’s alleged injury.

One of the biggest misconceptions about a physician expert witness is that they spend a lot of time in court. If a physician expert witness needed to appear in court many times per year that could certainly become disruptive to a clinical schedule.  The great news is that for most physicians serving as expert witnesses, testifying at trial is relatively rare. A busy physician expert witness with dozens of active cases may only testify at trial once or twice per year.  Trial testimony is rarely needed because the vast majority of cases settle.  When trials do occur, the physician expert witnesses are often allowed to testify via Zoom or prerecorded deposition.

So, if experts don’t testify at trial all that often, what are they doing? The vast majority of the work that physician expert witness perform consists of chart and document review, talking on the phone, research, forming opinions, and report writing.  All of this can be done from home.  Depositions of experts are also commonly taken over Zoom, meaning that the physician expert witness can often testify at deposition from home.

A physician expert witness is very well-compensated. Physician expert witnesses are typically paid $500-$1,000 per hour. Specialists usually command higher fees than generalists.  A physician expert witness can earn over $100,000 per year by performing expert witness work as few as four hours per week.  Physicians with successful expert witness practices can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

You will also learn a lot serving as a physician expert witness.  At the top of the list of what you will learn is the critical importance of proper and thorough documentation and communication. Your clinical skills will also benefit from your careful review of cases and medical literature. You will also likely improve your oral and written communication skills – especially your ability to better to talk to patients in layman’s terms.

Another misconception about physician expert witness work is that you have to say what the lawyer hiring you wants you to say.  As a physician expert witness, you are paid for your time not your opinions.  This is a critical distinction which means that you are essentially paid to call things as you see them.

You will have the opportunity to help your colleagues who are under suspicion of committing malpractice – even when you are retained by the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case.  Physicians are frequently retained by plaintiff attorneys to review potential medical malpractice cases for merit.  The way it usually works is that the plaintiff’s attorney will hire the expert and then send the expert a retainer check and the medical records in question.  Around 80+% of the time the expert finds that the case has no merit. When this is reported by the expert to the plaintiff’s lawyer, the plaintiff’s lawyer usually drops the case.  The sum of what is happening under this common scenario is that the expert is being paid by the plaintiff, but the opinion provided by the expert exonerates the defendant doctor.

Drawbacks of Serving as an Expert Witness

Serving as a physician expert witness does have its downsides.  Physician expert witnesses work for lawyers and must constantly deal with lawyers.  Lawyers can sometimes be difficult people to do business with. Experts who do this work long enough may run into issues such as being surprised with deadlines, failure to pay the expert’s fee on time (or at all), not providing the expert all relevant information, not being 100% truthful, being bullied, and trying to improperly influence the expert’s opinion.

You are also going to need a thick skin.  At deposition and trial, it is the job of the opposing attorney to attack your opinions and credibility.  You will be routinely questioned in such a way to assert or imply that you were sloppy, didn’t do your homework, are out of your depth, or are a hired gun who will say anything for money.

Finally, expert witnessing can and will cause scheduling issues that will affect both your personal and professional life.  Trials are relatively rare, but when they do take place, it is your duty to appear and testify.  Trial testimony may be needed on a day you were planning to be away on vacation or otherwise engaged.  Deadlines must be met when serving as an expert witness or your client’s case may be dismissed.  Expect to have some nights and weekends spent working under a deadline when you might have preferred occupying yourself in a different manner at that particular time.


There are extremely powerful financial and intellectual benefits to serving as a physician expert witness.  There are also some drawbacks including dealing with lawyers, working under deadlines, and confrontation by opposing counsel at deposition and trial.  The key to long term success as a physician expert witness is simple – take things seriously and learn how to do a great job.  Doing so will result in repeat and word of mouth business and allow you to grow a successful 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+ years he has had the pleasure of training thousands of physicians to become expert witnesses and improve their expert witness opinions, reports, and testimony.  SEAK offers online and in-person training on getting started as an expert witness, report-writing, testifying, and expert witness practice management. Jim can be contacted at jim@seak.com or 978-276-1234.