Before filing a lawsuit, you do your best to create a case budget that incorporates all of the expenses of litigation. You put dollar figures on every expense of a lawsuit, ranging from videographer and stenographer fees to costs for getting medical records and for the most part, the costs are predictable…without one big exception.
Expert witness fees are unpredictable and if you’re not careful, they will mess up the even the best case budgets. Here’s how it happens: The expert does a fantastic case evaluation and you’re thrilled to death about his attention to detail, but then you get the expert’s invoice for $6k. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when your expert takes advantage of you, but you have no one to blame but yourself. You never put the expert on a budget and you gave the expert carte blanche to spend as much time on the file as he wanted.
The Only Solution for Limiting Outrageous Expert Fees
There is only one way to fix this problem: you have to put your expert witnesses on a budget. Before the expert spends a minute on the case, you have to explain your procedure for working with expert witnesses. Specifically, the expert must estimate his fee for the case evaluation and his invoice must not exceed the original estimate unless he received advance approval from you.
But it’s not enough to get the expert’s verbal agreement—he will forget and so will you. You have to confirm the expert’s budget with a letter and have him sign the letter before he begins working. Below is the letter that we use with ALL of our experts.
Thank you for agreeing to provide your objective and independent review of the medical records.
Before you review the medical records, please provide us with an estimate of your fee for the review of the medical records and a brief telephone consultation to discuss your opinions.
We understand that it can be difficult to estimate the amount of time that it will take to complete your evaluation. If you cannot complete your evaluation for the amount of your original estimated fee, we ask that you advise us of the extra time that you need and the additional fee that you will charge.
Please do not exceed the amount of the original estimate for your fee without prior approval from us.
Thank you for your understanding.
Once your expert agrees to a budget, you can estimate the expert’s fees with crystal clarity. And if the expert ignores the case budget, you have to remind him that he did not have your approval to exceed the original estimate and you will only pay the estimated fee set forth in the signed retainer letter.