Experts are often a critical component of a trial. They can make your case. They can break it. Pay close attention to the experts proposed for your case.
Sometimes, the law requires you to support your case with expert testimony. Other times, an expert may not be required but is helpful in explaining an important part of it.
Generally, an expert addresses one of two issues -liability or damages. With regard to liability, for example, if your case involves a car accident, you may need an accident reconstruction expert to explain how the accident happened. If you were hurt using a product, you will likely call an expert to explain why the product is defective and how that defect caused your injury. If you were injured by a professional such as a physician, you will probably need a similar professional to explain how the applicable standard of care was violated and caused your injury.
As for the issue of damages, if you suffered personal injuries, an expert I like your physician will explain the nature, extent, and duration of your injuries. A vocational expert might be offered to explain how your injury has adversely affected your work life and what retraining you need. An economist might be helpful to explain the number of your financial losses over your remaining life expectancy.
Experts are often expensive. They are usually paid by the amount of time spent on your case. Rates vary from perhaps $40 per hour to $2,000 an hour or more. Many experts require a retainer before working on your case. Most will bill along the way and expect to be paid promptly.
Experts’ costs can be, and often are, advanced by your lawyer though you remain ultimately responsible. Your lawyer may ask you to pay a retainer to cover at least some of the expert’s fees.
In the majority of cases, expert witness fees are not recoverable from the other side if you win your case.
Because experts are often very important to your case, it’s a subject you should address in detail with your lawyer. Do you need an expert to win? What subjects will the expert address? How much will the expert cost? When will the expert be paid and by whom? How do we find a good expert? How do we know the expert is good? How will the other side likely respond to our expert?
What makes an expert good? What rules are applied to determine whether expert testimony will be allowed? We will address those subjects in the future.