- Handwriting experts, also known as forensic handwriting experts, are hired to analyze and determine the authenticity of handwriting or signatures on documents.
- The cost of hiring a handwriting expert depends on the number of documents that need to be analyzed.
- Handwriting experts are unbiased expert witnesses and are not paid based on the outcome of the case.
- Prices for hiring a handwriting expert can range from $300 to $800 per hour, with some requiring a minimum number of hours in their retainer. Appearance in court is often $2500 per day or more for an experienced forensic document examiner.
- Factors that can affect the cost of hiring a handwriting expert include the complexity of the case, the number of documents that need to be analyzed, and the expert’s level of experience. It will also cost more to have that expert take photographs and inspect the original document with a microscope and other specialized equipment.
- If you need to hire a handwriting expert, it’s important to carefully research and compare expert credentials in order to find the one that is qualified and can best convince the jury that their opinion is correct.
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How much does a handwriting expert cost? What does it cost to hire a forensic handwriting expert? This is probably the most commonly asked question that we hear when a new client calls our document examination office.
The most authentic answer depends on how many documents need to be analyzed and what exact forensic test you want to be performed.
Here are some examples of a few cases a forensic document examiner might have:
- What if you have a handwritten letter of Abraham Lincoln and you need to know if this document is authentic? Is that a $50 job or a $10,000 job?
- Answer: $5000 – $15,000 depending on if you need the paper and ink tested to determine the age.
- What if you need an expert to go to the local county courthouse and inspect your grandmother’s Last Will and Testament to determine if someone forged her name and created a fake will to steal your mother’s entire estate from the other children?
- Answer $2000-$3000 depending on where the courthouse is located and how long it takes to carry all the forensic equipment to the courthouse to take photographs through a microscope and run any light test on the paper. Then, the expert has to sort through all the photos and compare the known signatures of the decedent with the signature on the Last Will and Testament.
- What if you have a prenuptial agreement where one page contains the signature of the married couple who are in the middle of an ugly divorce? This document is only available in a PDF file and the expert can do the entire case from email and PDF files to determine if any of the signatures are forged on the document.
- Answer : $1000 – $2000. Some experts could charge more or less. But, because there is no travel fees or in-person inspections, the work required is really the side-by-side handwriting analysis to determine if the signature is authentic. If you want a detailed written lab report, that is often included in the price or an extra fee of a few hundred dollars.
The pay rate is going to be based on the work that you need have done.
Some companies charge an hourly rate and some companies charge a flat-rate fee structure. Ethical experts never get paid for the results of the case in court.
If you win! Congratulations. Expert Witnesses get paid the same amount of money regardless of the outcome. That is how authentic honest expert witnesses work in the United States and most countries.
Mr. Bart Baggett was asked about the rates and fees of his company Handwriting Experts inc (link: https://handwritingexpertusa.com. Baggett was asked what his price and procedure to analyze a 5-page will with one signature in question located at the local courthouse is his hometown.
Baggett said “We determine whether the person actually signed it or did someone forge the signature.”
Here is what he said about his entire process.
“For that assignment, I’m going to need a lot of handwriting samples of the decedent. The word decedent means the person who passed away.
Then, I’m going to need to inspect the original at the courthouse to determine if the signature on the Last Will and Testimate is not a color copy and it is indeed a wet signature (written by a human hand.) These days, high-resolution photographs from a great camera or a microscope are sufficient to make that determination. But, most clients don’t have the equipment to provide those high-quality photographs.
After I have all the evidence in my lab, I spend an appropriate amount of time evaluating the handwriting and figuring out the unconscious patterns in the natural handwriting of the decedent. I am specifically looking for significant similarities or differences. While doing my forensic analysis, I write detailed lab notes making key observations and forming my opinion.
When that’s complete, we contact the client and verbally provide the results of the investigations. If required, we then write an official lab report and submit the report to the client.
The client will determine whether the report helps their case or not. They may think that their sister forged the document, but my analysis may determine that the signature is authentic, and that’s my truth. They’re going to pay me regardless of my opinion because it is unbiased. The handwriting doesn’t lie.”
Here is what happens if a customer says “You look at the document first, then I’ll pay you if you agree with me”
Well, the process does not work that way, and forensics tests are paid for in advance. If you order a blood test and the results show you have A positive blood… the lab gets paid. Regardless of your own personal opinion of your blood type.
Brett Goldstein, a certified expert from New York said “My job is to tell you the truth. You pay for my professional opinion. Now, if my opinion helps you, then you can request that I appear as an expert witness in court. Although there is an additional charge for a court appearance, as I will travel for the appearance, I cannot testify before my analysis has been completed.”
Mr. Goldstein had one prospective client tell him “Hey, man, my court hearing is in two days. I’m going to wire you $3,000. Come testify that it’s a forgery.” He laughed when he told me that story. He told the prospect, “Sir, we don’t work that way. We are not actors hired to play a role. We are unbiased forensic handwriting experts who form an opinion based on the evidence. How about you pay me now for the forensic analysis? If the results come back in your favor, then I will allow you to pay me an additional fee to appear in court.”
If the lab results help your case, you can pay them to show up in court and testify as an expert witness. Forensic opinions are not for sale… they sell their time and expertise.
How do we price the lab work and investigation?
Most handwriting experts bill using the hourly retainer model or a flat rate model.
Prices often range from $300-$800 an hour. Some are much higher and require a minimum number of hours in their retainer. Bart Baggett charges $650 per hour and charges a minimum retainer of $3000.
Baggett gave details on a recent case with 50 different handwriting samples in question. He said “We had a case recently where there were 50 suspects who might or might not have written have mailed some very disturbing letters with handwriting on the outside of two envelopes. They wanted to know which one of the employees’ handwriting was written on the envelopes. Now at first glance, I don’t know if that’s 2 hours of work or 10 hours of work. I just don’t know. They paid me a retainer of $4000. I took about three hours to review the handwriting of those 50 suspects. And then, I told the client that I had excluded 45 of the suspects during my first pass. I narrowed down the 50 to just 5 good suspects. I then spend another three hours determining which one of the 5 suspects wrote the envelopes. By the time we wrote the details 75-page lab report, the retainer was all used up.”
Some clients prefer to just pay a flat rate rather than worry about being billed hourly. For example, a client could give pay a flat rate of $2000 for two documents. Sometimes, jobs like that are 2 hours of work, sometimes 5 hours. If it takes the expert five hours, the client got a really good deal going with the flat rate option opposed to paying an hourly fee.
An average estimate for a typical forgery case where a forensic document examination is required for 1- 2 possible forged documents is somewhere between $1,500 and $2,500.
Keep in mind that nine out of ten cases end up settling or being dismissed before the client steps foot into a courtroom. Court testimony is also upwards of $2000-$2500 for an expert witness to attend a live trial in court virtually or in person. Travel fees are always an additional fee if the expert has to travel over an hour to get to the courthouse.
Of course, there are a few “rookies” in the business that advertise a very low introductory rate such as $200. Avoid these fly-by-night so-called experts. Be careful of these “people” because often these people either aren’t qualified, are not certified, and could never be accepted as an expert in a real court of law.
In addition to their lack of experience and training, they charge you additional money for an official letter, each conversation, and extra money for exhibits. Sometimes they will charge extra for graphics and to take photographs of your documents. So, by the time you get done with all of the “add-ons”, you notice that you’ve paid $1200 for services when the advertised price was $300! Be mindful of these bait and switch tactics. If possible, hire an expert with a locked locked-in flat rate.
Baggett proudly admits that he is not the cheapest expert in the country and strives to be highest quality expert who has a team of quality staff who also get paid fairly. Beware of the “cheap expert”. That person might lack experience or very new to the industry. If you want someone that’s credible, he suggests you should ask a couple of questions before making a hiring decision
Have you been many times have you testified in court?
How long have you been a full-time professional handwriting expert?
When you have been to court, has any judge refused to allow you to testify because he determined you lack qualifications?
These answers are important. If you can get someone that’s been to court over a hundred times, you know they’re credible.
Remember, you are not just paying for the work, you’re paying for the credibility. You are paying for that expert to look those jury members in the eye and make them feel comfortable that experts’ insights and opinions are the truth. You are paying for both the forensic work and the ability to convince a jury his finding is in fact rooted in science.
Baggett was hired in 2015 to appear in a civil trial in Los Angeles. Here is what he said about what happened while waiting in the hall for his name to be called to take the stand.
“I was waiting outside to testify, and I saw a guy walk out. He looked around and walked back into the courtroom. He then comes back out and says, “We don’t need you.” I ask, “What do you mean, I’ve already been paid in advance.” He states, “They saw you in the hall. And they stipulated that that signature was authentic. We don’t need your testimony. If you testified, it makes him look like a liar. And then the judge would not trust anything he would say after that. They know your reputation. You’re going to be very convincing” So, they literally caved. My reputation preceded me to the point where it was worth paying me to simply appear.”
Handwriting experts in the forensic field are just crime fighters attempting to stop fraud. And the fraud that they are stopping normally involves a document or a handwritten item.
Some people think they can sneak a forged signature by an experienced handwriting expert. If you hire a forensic handwriting expert, and a good one at that, you are not going to be able to sneak anything before their eyes.
If you want to talk about your forensic handwriting case, just go to this website and speak to one of our case consultants. 1-800-980-9030.
Bart Baggett’s office can be reached at the following websites