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How to Handle Expert Witness Billing and Retainer Agreements

Agreements are often difficult to handle without the use of a lawyer or other professional to make the paperwork understandable and easier to comprehend. However, billing and retainer agreements have other terms, conditions and stipulations that may require a greater degree of detail and descriptions for those that are not experts in these matters.

Complex information takes time to decode, and the specialized knowledge that expert witnesses possess are crucial in breaking down agreement issues, the terms and conditions held within and how they correspond to certain arrangements. Experts may act as a consultant, used to testify in a case or provide details about something confusing. If there is a dispute between two parties, experts are hired to assist in breaking down the complications and in connecting pieces of evidence to the incident, scene or relationship. Other matters are just as imperative such as ensuring the expert is compensated and his or her services are put to good use.

When a lawyer is about to hire an expert witness, he or she may communicate with this professional about the payment and other expenses that are to be covered. A well-drafted expert witness agreement is strongly recommended
to include terms such as fees; cancellation fees; scope of services (eg., document review; depositions; trial testimony; etc); dates and times for appearances; travel; accommodations; etc. Generally, the expert is willing to negotiate terms based on the situation, what is needed and other relevant factors. The client may be informed about these meetings, or he or she may meet the expert for the first time in the courtroom.

What are Billing and Retainer Agreements?

A billing agreement usually states the terms that an expert witness will be paid, how much time is needed, what type of services he or she is obligated to provide and similar conditions. These may be agreed upon through the initial or subsequent meetings, or the document may be arranged beforehand with changes after the professional has passed the screening. If there are any negatives to the circumstances such as the expert not having the proper credentials or not being an expert in the field specified and these issues are withheld, the conditions may have a clause that the expert forfeits payment if he or she cannot be used as an expert witness in the case.

Retainers are often used in conjunction with the billing agreement. Typically, retainers may be used as a monthly means of ongoing support or if the professional may be needed but is not the primary source of help, he or she may only be taken on for so many hours. Payment is usually at a set time or date, and this may also affect how much in payment is provided even if services are not rendered. A deposit is often used for retainer arrangements to the expert is available if needed. Then, if the professional is utilized in a case, he or she may setup a billing agreement.

Handling the Agreements Properly

When an expert is needed for a case, it is the lawyer that hires him or her. The individual professionals are interviewed initially, and some are dismissed when they are not relevant enough for the factors of the case. Others may be dismissed when it is evident that they are not the right fit. However, when the right match has been made, a contractual agreement is either used or drafted for the situation. This paperwork is often negotiated back and forth between both parties so the details and conditions are perfected and understood. Some of these circumstances involve the expert becoming a consultant if the judge deems his or her testimony inadmissible.

To handle the billing and retainer agreements properly, the legal representative ensures the conditions are in line with what he or she is wanting and has been negotiated with the expert. This may mean the expert is available for a certain number of days, has an open line of communicate at all hours of the day and night and similar elements. The payment is one of the first things to handle and should already have been placed within the agreement. Additional expenses and other fees could be added to, but the terms should be detailed in the paperwork.

The Expert in Retainer and Billing Agreements

Some experts have certain amounts for billing already pre-established, but others may adjust these fees based on the claim and the need of the client. Retainer conditions often require dialogue and open communication, and the expert is often open to negotiating terms in usual circumstances.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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