Expert Witnesses EconomyIt is a firmly established legal principle that expert witnesses are entitled to be compensated for the valuable services they provide to attorneys, judges, and juries. In fact, the Federal Register even provides for expert witness fees by statute, stating that whether an expert testifies before an administrative law judge (ALJ) or a court, that individual is entitled to reasonable fees. The fees for the testimony time in front of an ALJ is the same fee that is permitted for experts who testify in court cases, or whatever is deemed reasonable by the judge. See Federal Register 20 C.F.R. 725. However, of perhaps more interest and import is the economic impact that experts have today and what the trends say about whether it will continue.

Discussion:

The demand for expert witnesses has risen in 2014 despite the fact that challenges are often raised to their credentials and reliability. Today, experts are used in every kind of case: “Economists testify on the value of life and limb in wrongful-death cases; physicians identify the mistakes of their colleagues in medical malpractice suits. Experts are also used in legislative hearings and in administrative proceedings, in which administrative law judges or political appointees interpret government regulations about a host of issues, including worker safety, water quality, and electricity rates.”[1] Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek concedes that in many types of litigation, expert witnesses are essential and must be retained in order to guarantee any degree of success, indicating that the demand for experts is high.[2] The question, then, is what the statistics demonstrate. In other words, what would the U.S. Department of Labor’s economic outlook for expert witnesses look like? According to recent publications, the economic outlook is very rosy indeed.

Take, for example, a study published by the research company, IBISWorld, in July of 2014. The publication makes a number of staggering economic observations. First, it notes that from 2009-2014, the number of expert witnesses being retained in the United States grew by 6.8%. Furthermore, these numbers are expected to rise, as the U.S. pulls out of its recession from 2008-2009 and begins to increase its economic well-being. The revenue generated by expert witnesses is about $390 million, which is no insignificant amount.[3] Clearly, the outlook for experts is quite positive, with all signs pointing to the fact that as the economy improves, so does the demand for and reimbursement of experts.

So, what should one make of this economic data? Given the demand, it is important to note that the reasonable compensation specified by the Federal Register may be relatively high. Accordingly, smart attorneys will vet their experts thoroughly and avail themselves of expert witness providers, who thoroughly examine each expert and help to find the best person for a particular task. Additionally, while the economy (and number of lawsuits) continues to climb, more experts will be needed to assess damages, which ultimately means greater returns in settlement negotiations and litigation. While expert witnesses may cost a significant amount, their import in a particular case cannot be overstated, particularly where economic factors are involved. The very people who predict economic factors for the nation as a whole may just be some of the experts who provide intricate formulas and information as to how a judge or jury should be guided in using sound economic principles to reach a damages verdict. It is up to savvy attorneys to pay attention to these trends and get the best experts for their clients and their pocketbooks.

Conclusion:

The economic indicate that are currently available suggest that experts will continue to be in high demand and account for an even larger share of the market in the United States. In many respects, this is a classic example of a cycle: a better economy means more damages can be awarded, which means more experts can be retained and those damages must be assessed by the people in the know. Attorneys will do well by their clients to pay heed to these trends and get the best experts that money can buy, with the understanding that it is money well spent, an investment that will yield great returns.

 

By: Kat S. Hatziavramidis, Attorney-at-Law

[1] Steven Moss, “Opinion for Sale: Confessions of an Expert Witness,” Legal Affairs, 2003.

[2] See Greg Eastman, “A Primer on When to Use Expert Witnesses and How to Find Them,” Bloomberg Law, Jan. 7, 2013

[3] See “Expert Witness Consulting Services in the US: Market Research Report,” http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/expert-witness-consulting-services.html.