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Qualifying a Medical Expert Witness

A seemingly authoritative medical expert witness may not meet the high standards of the court.

Federal Rules 702 through 706 establish the standards for expert witness testimony, outlining both the credentials expected of an expert witness and the standards for methodology and evidence quality. Standards for expert witness discovery regarding scientific evidence and associated testimony are also established by the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., state statutes, and local court rules. 

Federal Rule 26(2-b) states that the expert witness must provide a written summary opinion describing the testimonial subject matter, as well as the following:

  • Substance of facts and opinion

  • Basis for the opinion

  • Reports

  • List of all publications authored by the witness in the last 10 years

  • Record of all previous testimony, including depositions, in the last four years

  • Disclosure statement

  • Report signed by the expert

  • Disclosing attorney

Keep in mind that the disclosure statement alone should include extensive information regarding the expert's qualifications, scope of engagement, informational basis for formulating opinion, summary of opinion, publications, and compensation. 

Variation among states

More than 30 U.S. states have laws that establish professional standards for expert witnesses in medical liability cases. Although 24 of the 30 states require expert witnesses to have the same or a "similar" medical background as the defendant physician, rules vary on what qualifies one’s background as "similar" to another's. 

For example, expert witnesses in Arizona must be licensed in the same profession as the defendant and maintain the same specialty board certification as the defendant. Arizona even requires expert witnesses to devote a majority of their professional time to active clinical practice or instruction in the same profession as the defendant for the year preceding the date on which the contested events occurred. Connecticut law, alternatively, states that "any health care provider may testify as an expert if he or she is a similar health care provider or the court determines the expert possesses sufficient training, experience and knowledge as a result of practicing or teaching in a related field of medicine within the last five years."

Due these major variations, qualifying a medical expert witness requires observing the legal guidelines established on both federal and state levels. In states where rules are less stringent, expert peer review establishes the authority of an expert witness and ensures that the highest standard suggested by the spirit of the law will always be met. to help attorneys live up to these standards. Our peer review process can help you identify and select the right people to testify in your case, whether you’re bringing negligence charges against a hospital or helping a medical device manufacturer defend against a claim.

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