U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert


As an employee of a government laboratory or forensic facility, the expert will receive compensation that is routine and part of the employment agreement. This compensation is usually paid to the laboratory or agency and not the expert.

If the expert later becomes engaged in private practice, the expert's compensation must be addressed and included in the engagement letter. The rate and method of compensation should be explicitly stated. The engagement letter in civil matters frequently fails to spell out who is specifically responsible for paying the expert's fees — the client or the attorney. Often, the expert knows the attorney and not the client. As a result, it is to the expert's advantage to have the attorney guarantee the payment.

[Source: Copp v. Breskin, 56 Wash. App. 229 (1989)]

In civil cases, expert fees may range from $50 per hour to $2,500 or more per day. The expert should find out what similar experts are charging. Fees may be determined by experience, complexity of the assignment, or time constraints. Fees may be net or gross; the expert should establish who pays expenses incurred for performing assigned duties.

Back Forward