The single most effective thing many physicians can do to supplement their incomes is to serve as an expert witness. Physician expert witnesses are brought into cases to help judges, juries, and lawyers understand evidence. In essence, an expert witness is a teacher.
Reimbursements for clinical medicine are set artificially low by insurers and the government. In contrast, physician expert witnesses are compensated under a free market that fairly accounts for their knowledge, training, and experience and the value the physician brings to the table. The law of supply and demand results in going rates for physician expert witnesses of $500-$1,000/hour. In other words, physician expert witnesses are not in any way overpaid. The problem is that physicians in clinical medicine are underpaid.
Over Time, the Income Can Significantly Add Up
Successful physician expert witnesses can build up a practice that generates life changing additional income of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Even at a rate of $500/hour (on the low end of expert witness fees for physicians), 4 hours of expert witness work per week would result in more than $100,000 in extra income annually.
Over time, the income earned from expert witness work can significantly add up. If a physician were to serve as an expert for 20 years and earn an extra $100,000/year doing so, this would result in $2 million in additional income. If they were to earn $200,000 annually as an expert witness over 30 years, which would be $6 million in income.
We have seen our physician clients who have built successful expert witness practices benefit in ways that include funding their kids’ education, getting out of debt, financing a comfortable retirement, and being able to practice medicine and serve their patients with less worry about reimbursements—for example, being able to treat more patients pro bono.
Most Testimony Can Be Delivered Remotely
One of the common misconceptions about serving as a medical expert witness is that it involves lots of travel and time in court. In fact, much of the time spent as an expert witness involves reviewing medical charts and other documents, performing research, forming opinions, and drafting reports—all activities that can be done from home. Trial testimony is rare as most cases settle out of court. A physician will typically only testify at trial once or twice per year, which can often be delivered remotely.
A second misconception is that you would be a hired gun who is expected to say what the retaining lawyer wants you to say. Expert witnesses are paid for their time, not their opinion. This means it is their duty to call things as they see them. It is extremely common for experts to form opinions that are unfavorable to the party that retained them.
Resources are available to guide physicians on how to get started in this interesting field and succeed at it. Ways to obtain case referrals include word of mouth, direct outreach to attorneys, networking, and advertising.