Expert Witness Fees Touch the Sky with Litigation Becoming More Complex | BCG News

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09/22/14

Expert Witness Fees Touch the Sky with Litigation Becoming More Complex


Summary: Expert witnesses are earning more than ever with litigation becoming increasingly complex. With courts demanding that expert witnesses support their conclusions with greater evidence and analysis, qualified experts see a 15% year-on-year rise in assignments and a 3.2% increase in hourly rates. Highest hourly earners like physicians devote only 18% of their time to such work; however, many reported annualized earnings of over $1 million solely from expert witness assignments. According to the ExpertPages 2014 Survey, demand and hourly rates for expert witnesses has reached a 16-year high.

When it comes to complex litigation in any field or practice area, expert witnesses have a vital role to play. The 2014 Expert Witness Fees & Practices Survey report released by ExpertPages.com, finds hourly rates and demand for expert witnesses has reached the highest level in the survey's 16-year history. Of course, that means law firms are paying more to use the services of qualified experts, an often overlooked factor when considering the costs and pricing of litigation.

The average earnings of the 600 expert witnesses who responded to the survey were $326 an hour, this year. That's a 3.2% rise in rates over the last year. Experts also reported a 15% increase in the average numbers of new assignments.

Gerry Goldsholle, Founder & CEO of ExpertPages said, "As the stakes are becoming higher, lawyers and insurers are retaining experts more often, and bringing them in sooner, as courts are increasingly rigorous about requiring experts to support their conclusions. All that is driving greater demand and higher fees for qualified experts."

On an average, physicians are the highest hourly earners with rates going at $470 per hour. Technology and Intellectual Property experts had lower hourly rates at $416 per hour, but had the highest gross earnings of more than $60,000 per assignment.

Expert witnesses have become more organized and from being a cottage industry where experts were found mainly through word-of-mouth references, today there are online directories and forums where qualified expert witnesses are reachable without reference.

Most major law firms have relations with local or well-known expert witnesses in those practice areas where they expect greater incidence of litigation. However, expert witness costs can often blindside smaller law firms and exceed litigation budgets if they are unaware of the hourly rates of relevant experts. And those rates, as the report found, can often be close to the hourly rates of small law firm partners.

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