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RE: Expert witness fees

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Title: RE: Expert witness fees

Jim:

First of all, when it comes to lawyers and litigation, there is no such thing as "feelings".  If this is your first experience serving as an expert witness, you will learn this shortly after starting your deposition and finding your credibility being questioned.

I have occasionally served as an expert witness in construction litigation, and have been involved in about 15 trials over the past 15 years.  I pick and choose which cases I become involved in, and turn down six or eight for each one that I accept.  For the most part, this work is neither enjoyable nor rewarding, but it can be intellectually and physically challenging.  My advice is to spend whatever time is necessary to do your work thoroughly, and then present it accurately and honestly, without any bias toward the party (normally a lawyer) who is paying your bill.  Your credibility should not be for sale at any price.

In my opinion, the best approach is simply to work on an hourly basis (without any ceiling) at your ordinary and customary rates.  This applies to every hour spent in preparation, as well as to every hour spent giving depositions and testifying at trial.  You will find that the former hours far surpass the latter.  My current hourly rate is $164.64.  Looking back at the cases I have been involved in, my total fees have probably averaged about $25,000.  On one case, I was the sole expert for the defense of a very large AE firm in a $33 million lawsuit related to an accident with two fatalities.  Following my deposition, the plaintiffs quickly settled with the AE firm for only $7,000.  My fee amounted to about $20,000.  On another case, I was the sole expert for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit resulting from a massive construction accident.  Shortly after my deposition, the contractor settled with the plaintiffs for $12 million, and the lawyer (my client) happily pocketed a 35% contingency fee.  My fee amounted to about $30,000.

My point is that you are best served by charging your ordinary and customary hourly rates, spending the time necessary to do a good job, and concentrating on the technical (rather than commercial) aspects of the matter at hand.

Good luck!

Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Vice President
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HALFF ASSOCIATES, INC.
Engineers+Architects+Planners
8616 Northwest Plaza Drive
Dallas, Texas    75225
Phone:  (214)346-6280
Mobile:  (214)236-9696
Fax:      (214)739-0095
Email:   scaldwell(--nospam--at)halff.com
Website:  http://www.halff.com
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Jim Sadler wrote:

I am interested in what the going rate for structural engineer expert witness services.  I don't want to charge too little so as to hurt anyone's feelings or appear not to be an expert. Any suggestions?