How Much Can A Witness Get Paid to Testify at Trial?

A non-party witness called to testify at a trial is giving up work or free time in order to make himself available to testify.  Sometimes a witness testifies willingly, other times a witness has to be subpoenaed to court.  In New York a witness who is subpoenaed to court must be paid $15 for each day of testimony pursuant to CPLR 8001.  Of course, that $15 is unlikely to cover the expenses of the witness, let alone compensate for the time.  However, a witness must comply with a properly served subpoena, or runs the risk of being held in contempt.  A fact witness is allowed to be compensated a reasonable amount above and beyond the $15 to compensate for lost time, work or expenses. 

When a witness is subpoenaed to court he must answer questions truthfully as to the facts known to him, but he cannot be forced to give an opinion.

An expert witness, on the other hand, is one who is paid to give an expert opinion.  Experts are hired by one of the parties of the case and their fee is negotiated before appearing in court.  The fee an expert charges usually depends on many factors, including his reputation, experience and prior success in testifying.

Sometimes a witness is a combination fact and expert witness.  In one recent case an emergency room doctor was called to the trial to testify on behalf of the defendant, as to statements made by the plaintiff in the emergency room following his accident.  The doctor was paid $10,000.

It was later ruled that the trial judge should have instructed the jury that it could consider whether the fact that a witness may be influenced by a $10,000 payment he received for an afternoon’s testimony.  

So there is no one answer to the question of how much a witness may get paid to testify at trial.  It depends on who the expert is, what he knows, and often how bad his testimony is needed.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact us.  If you have a ideas for future blog posts let me know. – Marc Miner, Esq.

Zalman & Schnurman is a New York law firm that concentrates in personal injury actions such as construction accidents, motor vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents, premises liability, trip and falls, slip and falls, snow and ice cases, medical malpractice, traumatic brain injuries, etc. Learn more at www.1800Lawline.com, or contact us at 1-800-LAWLINE, or 1-800-529-5463

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The information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not meant as legal advice or to cover all possible facts or factors. An attorney should be consulted to discuss specific facts and laws.

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2 Responses to “How Much Can A Witness Get Paid to Testify at Trial?”

  1. Robin Simoncina says:

    I have a question regarding a medical doctor appearing at a trial in NY.
    If the doctor wants an up front fee to appear at a trial, and does NOT appear, is cancelled 10+ days in advance, and the doctor then sees his regular patients instead of appearing in court, can the doctor LEGALLY KEEP THIS money??? Also, is it legal for a dr to speak with a persons attorney (NOT A DEPOSITION), for less than one hour, ON HIS DAY OFF, and NOT AT HIS MEDICAL PRACTICE, to LEGALLY CHARGE A VERY HIGH FEE???
    Could you please answer these 2 very important questions?

  2. 1800lawline says:

    Robin,

    Unfortunately a doctor is free to charge whatever fee he or she feels is appropriate for his or her time. It is then up to the person being charged to agree or not agree to the fee. Many doctors who do not really want to be involved with litigation charge “a very high fee” to discourage attorneys and their injured clients from involving them in litigation. Many doctors also charge a non-refundable fee before they will commit to reserving time to testify. If the agreement made was that the money was not refundable, then the doctor can legally keep the fee even if he did not testify. Such are one of the reasons why the cost of preparing for trial is so high. When a treating doctor is uncooperative many times the lawyer will choose to rely on a doctor who regularly testifies in court, and is more cooperative, as an expert in a case rather than the treating doctor. The cost and benefits of how to proceed must be weighed in each individual case.

    Marc Miner, Esq.