How we charge for our services
We are often contacted by people, and asked “how much will you charge to do my case?” The fact is that our answer invariably has to be “it depends.”
This is not a “cop-out” or a way to get you to agree to a small amount up-front, only to fleece you for a larger amount later; which is a thing that is not unheard of in some of the fields we associate with. When you hire an accident investigator, an accident reconstructionist or an expert witness, you need to understand the dynamics of that appointment in the context of several influencing factors. This page gives you an idea of what the elements are that we need to consider, before we can provide a quotation.
How we charge
At IBF Investigations, we prefer not to work on a per-hour, per-mile-, per-page basis. While this is a repeated trend in our industry, internationally, and while many associated service providers work this way, we prefer not to approach billing in this fashion. We prefer to start with a consideration of what all those billing items would be, but then we discount heavily to where we provide a single price for all the anticipated services, until you have our report in your hand.
If you were to appoint us, without any prior relationship, you might face the following fees for work in South Africa:
- ZAR 3,000 – Review an existing Expert Report and comment (agree or disagree).
- ZAR 5,000 – Compile a “desk report” commenting on the Merits of your case, based on the evidence already in your possession.
- ZAR 2,000 – Consulting fee, per hour, if you would like to consult in person, via Telephone, or via a Virtual Meeting.
- ZAR 30,000 – To complete an investigation, including the scene, vehicles, and/or witnesses and to compile a report.
When we are appointed in new matters, like at-scene investigations, post-event investigations, vehicle examinations, review of repudiations, analysis of accidents, reconstruction of accidents, or review of merits, we will typically have no idea how long it will be before those matters eventually get to court. Because we have had experience with cases that we investigated going to court only 11 years after our initial at-scene investigation, our first quotations would include everything listed, up to and excluding the submission of our final report – but not court fees. We simply cannot tell what dynamics could potentially impact our rates, several years into the future. We can also not know, in advance, how many court dates will be set aside, how many postponements there will be, or whether a matter will be settled before we actually testify.
Where we do go to court, we structure our billing very specifically, to allow you to always pay the minimum possible fee for our attendance and contribution. While some of our peers might not do this, we made the decision to bill you based on the value we bring, rather than merely on our time spent at court. As an example, we might schedule – and block out our calendar – for your trial date, only to hear that the trial was postponed a day before. We could also arrive and find that that the matter is withdrawn, charges are dropped, or the case was settled, meaning we’ve taken our time to arrive, but we haven’t really done anything.
We might even have to sit through the testimony of circumstantial witnesses, waiting for the factual witnesses to arrive, only to find that testimony not impacted by our presence is led, before the case is postponed. It is also possible that we could sit in and consult on the trial, providing questions for factual witnesses, but not actually testify ourselves – so our true expertise might not have been brought to bear, fully. Of course, we might also testify, which means we are “in the box” and presenting evidence in your matter.
All of this could happen. Therefore, we prefer to charge for court time, as follows:
- When your trial date is set, you will reserve us, and pay only a minimal fee (because we have to decline other work, for those dates).
- If we arrive at court, we will charge an additional attendance fee, considering the reservation already.
- If we contribute to the case in any way – consulting, etc – but not testify, we charge an additional service fee.
- Finally, if we testify, we charge an additional expert witness fee.
Our current fees, for court attendance in South Africa, as in May 2021, are as follows:
- ZAR 3,500 – Reservation, per reserved trial date – to “block out our calendar.”
- ZAR 5,000 – Attendance, per reserved trial date – to be present at court (added to Number 1, above).
- ZAR 6,500 – Consulting fee, per reserved trial date – to assist with the trial, and cross-examination (added to Number 1, above).
- ZAR 10,000 – Expert Witness Fee, per reserved trial date – to provide testimony in chief, or during cross-examination (added to Number 1, above).
Therefore, the maximum rate you will ever pay is ZAR 10,000.00 per day, for our attendance at trial, excluding any direct additional costs, like travel, accommodation, toll fees, meals, etc.
Appointing us earlier
Trials are more easily billed, because the work, commitment, time, duration, and location are static and predicable. When we are engaged to investigate your matter, however, several aspects of your case will influence our billing. The following are the most important things we will consider, when preparing a quotation in your matter…
Number of Vehicles Involved
Unless we attend your collision at-scene, the number of vehicles involved can have an enormous impact on our efforts. As you can imagine, a single-vehicle collision involves only one vehicle, and therefore a limited amount of time and effort, at the scene. We then also have no need to drive to- and examine each vehicle in turn, as is our standard protocol. For an at-scene appointment, we would typically consider up to two commercial vehicles with their trailers, or up to four light motor vehicles, a “standard investigation.” But the moment the numbers become higher than that, we need to make special allowances for both time, and effort.
Location of Vehicles
Sometimes, vehicles are moved over great distances, after a collision. In the above example, we attended a collision on the N2 outside Stormsriver in the Eastern Cape. The Red VW Bus was available for examination at a local storage facility. Due to delays with getting access to the vehicles for a mere three days, the Land Rover was already removed and transported to Johannesburg in Gauteng, by the time we were granted access. When Commercial Vehicles are involved, they are often transported much further from the scene – typically back to the repair center or storage yard of the owner’s preference. This aspect of our work and the location of vehicles obviously impacts heavily on our billing.
Location of the scene
We operate all over Southern Africa. Our efforts have taken us to Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya and even to the Middle East. Since we have no way of predicting where collisions will occur, how long after the event we will be appointed, or what will become relevant in a trial, we prefer to visit crash scenes in every case, wherever possible or practical. Since some cases might therefore involve international travel, flights, accommodation or long road trips, we bill according to the location of the scene and our intention to attend – either live, or post-event.
Nature of the request (type of case)
All of our cases are not created equal. In some cases, we are simply asked to conduct an evidence preservation exercise; to attend, photograph, and measure. In other cases, we might be required to create a detailed reconstruction report, animations, or we might need to create advanced 3D Models for court presentation. We might even be required to conduct experiments, locate an examine or measure exemplar vehicles, do research, analyse data, or review existing expert reports. Since all these affect the amount of work we do, the resources we commit, or the time we spend on a case, we cannot always predict costing before we know exactly what we will be getting involved in. We have been involved in cases where ballistic testing had to be done, and even in cases involving murder by hanging.
Travel, Accommodation, Toll Fees, etc.
As we travel around South Africa, and abroad, and as fuel prices increase and exchange rates fluctuate, we are often unable to predict exactly what the direct costs involved in our deployment might be. If we travel around South Africa, certain routes – like the N3 and N4 – attract very high toll fees. If we travel to remote parts of the country, or internationally, elements like accommodation, flights, visa fees, and now COVID-testing all add to the cost of our deployment. While we loathe the additional expenses as much as our clients do, we are forced to pass on these costs, unless there are none.
Bulk of Evidence
Some cases are serious or even fatal but are rather simple in terms of the amount of evidence involved – such as a dingle-vehicle versus pedestrian matter. Other cases, however, might involve multiple expert reports, vehicle data or video analysis, complex dynamics, many vehicles, or many witnesses. In those cases, there might be a need for the careful interpretation, analysis, and consideration of each of those aspects, before a report can be compiled. Since we cannot control the complexity of matters, we cannot predict the cost of our involvement until we are familiar with the broad merits of a case.