How much do Medical Expert Witnesses Earn? What can you charge?
This is the question I hear the most often. I write on the topic in depth using as an example Psychiatrists and Psychologists–but data is consistent with other medical specialties. Setting a Fee in Med-Legal Work: Case Study Psychiatry | Psychology
A physician in any medical specialty will find information of use there.
Your fee will reflect:
- How easy it is to find you
- How easy it is to reach you*
- Your demonstrated knowledge
- The quality of your reports (get feedback and improve)
- Times you’ve testified
- How many attorneys know you
- The number of inquiries you receive from attorneys
*Surprisingly, attorneys report they often retain the first Expert who takes their call.
Documented Rates Don’t Exist
No legitimate survey has been carried out for forensic medical professionals, including psychiatrists and psychologists–it is too specialized. I go into the hard(er) data below.
However, information exists through legal documentation of fees, first hand reports and a little deduction and extrapolation.
My experience is $250/hour to $1200/hour (how’s that for a range!), the bottom being a PhD, Psychologist, Nurse Practitioner, or someone fresh out of school and without testimony experience.
The more education you have, such as a Fellowship and Board-Certification in more than one subspecialty, the more you can charge.
- For experts with 1-3 years of experience who have testified 5-15 times, the mean is nearer $400
- Mid-career doctors with sound credentials usually charge $500-800
- A doctor at the top of their field might expect to charge as much as $1,000-1,300/hour
- All testimony is charged at a higher rate than the base rate (add 40% or so to the figures above)
This is from my own personal experience.
Fee Income = billable rate x number of hours available for a forensic practice
Profit = Fee income, less expenses.
Projected Income: You are in control: your hours in demand x your fee (increasing over time) less expenses.
Income is limited to how often you are retained. Thus, income is driven by demand.
Demand is generated through action.
Data Geeks: summary of hard data
There exist 2 private surveys conducted by expert witness directories. The samples are small, the statistics misleading and application to your field is next to null. Most importantly, annual income reported is not usually identified as being full time or part-time. Not helpful.
Bureau of Labor Statistics is often cited in the press, but actually is not helpful because forensic work isn’t a separate category of data collection.
I believe forensic physicians in any field do not make as much income from their forensic practice as they could, by which I mean more billable hours. Yours change over time and ultimately reflect your experience: i.e., the number of billable hours you have spent learning your trade.
That is the point of my services–to get my clients more billable hours.
Whatever you decide to charge, don’t intentionally try to undersell your competition.
Your services are not available on Groupon.
Further, your rate reflects your experience. If you cut your rate because you want more work, it will be easier for attorneys to assume the rate is an accurate reflection of your experience even if it is not.