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What Criteria Might be Used to Establish Someone as an Expert Witness?

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Not everyone can be an expert witness. An expert must have relevant education, understanding, and experience in the particular field at issue to be qualified to issue an expert opinion. Experts base their testimony on their professional opinions, not on their personal observance of the facts at issue in the case, so the basis of their opinion and their qualifications must be explicitly and strongly established. Continue reading for a discussion of what criteria are used to evaluate potential expert witnesses, and contact a qualified medical expert with any additional questions.

Experts Must be Qualified

As we have discussed before, in order to admit the testimony of an expert witness, the court must find that the witness is qualified to give their opinion on the matter at hand. Their expertise should be specific to the issue in dispute. A dentist would not be a useful expert to testify about the effects of a particular brain tumor treatment, for example, but would be helpful in comparing dental records or possibly in evaluating bite marks.

While an expert’s educational background is certainly relevant to their qualifications, it is not sufficient to establish the witness as an expert. Criteria relevant to an expert’s qualifications may include, for example:

  • The expert’s education, including a specialized focus on the particular field or issue in question
  • The expert’s professional publications in the field generally and those concerning the issue at bar, especially publications in peer-reviewed journals
  • The witness’s professional training in the specific area or on the specific issue relevant to the matter
  • The witness’s experience as an expert in other cases involving similar issues
  • The extent of the witness’s professional experience dealing with the specific issue; for example, the number of glioblastoma brain surgeries performed, assisted on, or witnessed, and their years of practicing medicine generally

A party seeking to qualify an expert on heart surgery, for example, might put forward that their witness:

  • Has a medical degree from a prominent university, with a focus on cardiothoracic surgery
  • Completed a fellowship evaluating the utility of a new type of surgeryDid a residency at a prominent hospital known for complex surgeries
  • Published several articles concerning the type of heart defect at issue in the case
  • Has been a practicing cardiothoracic surgeon for decades and has performed hundreds of similar surgeriesTeaches a monthly seminar about heart surgery complications.

Not All Opinion Witnesses are Scientists

Notwithstanding the above, not every expert witness is a scientist with published articles about the field in question. Sometimes, a case calls for a matter of opinion that does not fall squarely within a scientific discipline. In such cases, someone with relevant experience may be able to opine on the importance of a particular fact or set of facts and elucidate what conclusions may be drawn from those facts.

For example, an injury case may turn on whether a person was intoxicated at the time of the accident. A police officer might state that he witnessed the defendant wobbling, that he observed the witness had red, blurry eyes, and that his pupils did not react to a flashlight. The officer may then be permitted to offer his opinion that the defendant was under the influence of intoxicants. The officer’s qualification to offer such an opinion would be based on, for example:

  • The officer’s number of years on the force
  • The hundreds or thousands of times the officer has encountered intoxicated suspects who later tested positive for alcohol or narcotics
  • The officer’s hours of training

If you need a professional, seasoned, and detail-oriented expert witness in a personal injury, medical malpractice, or product liability case, contact the offices of Neurosurgery Medlegal Services, LLC, at 866-659-8051.

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