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Can An Expert Witness Charge Exorbitant Fees?

Here is a scenario for a medical malpractice case: the victim claims his orthopedist violated the basic standards of medical care, which resulted in significant injuries for him. During the course of litigation, the defense refused to negotiate, which meant the victim had to seek a trial to determine the truth.

At trial, each side will have to present their expert witnesses, whose testimonies are paramount for the jury to hear. The orthopedic expert witness of the victim gets on the stand, and the plaintiff's lawyer is about to start his questioning. The first question the lawyer asks is, doctor how much are you being paid by the plaintiff to take time off your busy schedule and to be here in court?

Large Fees Charged by the Expert Witness

The doctor answers with a straight face that he is being paid $12,000. This statement brings a collective gasp from the jury box, as every juror is surprised and stunned at the exorbitant amount that is being paid to this witness. The jurors could not believe that this doctor was charging so much for his time.

Seeing this reaction from the jurors, the plaintiff's lawyer had to ask the next obvious question as to why he was charging so much. The doctor says he has taken the day off from work to be in court. Normally, this orthopedic doctor would have two or three surgeries scheduled for the day (worth $20,000 or so), and he would be earning much more than what he is charging the plaintiff for his appearance in court. Since he cannot be in surgery performing surgical procedures (he cannot be in two places at once), he is charging the plaintiff's attorney $12,000 to be in court - for his time.

Why the Doctor was Charging so much?

This gave the jury a lit bit of information as to why this doctor charged such an outrageous fee to appear in court. It is not uncommon for the defense attorney to bring this point up in the trial. Usually, doctors will charge in the range of $200 to $300 per hour, to appear in court.

On the other hand, $12,000 seems to be an exorbitant amount, and therefore the jurors were stunned by the fee that the doctor was charging. However, once the doctor explained that he would be earning two or three times this amount in his normal practice during that time, the jurors would be able to have a better understanding pertaining to why the fees were so high. One surgery appointment had to be canceled or perhaps two.

Intelligent Strategy to Reveal the Higher Fees

It was a clever strategy of the plaintiff's lawyer to bring this topic up at the start, as the defense could gain the juror's support by asking the same question shortly thereafter. If the defense revealed to the jury how much was being paid to the plaintiff's expert witness, it would have seemed the plaintiff was trying to hide this fact.

However, it is important for the jury to understand that expert witness fees can be sizeable, since these doctors or surgeons could have made much more that day performing their duties. In fact and in essence, they are losing money by appearing in court to act as a witness.

Another advantage of revealing the high fees paid to the expert witness is that the jurors will come to know that the doctor is genuine. On top of this, the jurors will realize that this medical witness has a regular practice and is quite respected in his field.

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