Dealing with injury claims can be a complicated process that involves technical details and scientific evidence that may be difficult for the average person to comprehend. In such cases, it is common practice for both parties to present “expert witnesses” who possess specialized knowledge and can help the jury understand what happened.
When it comes to introducing and using expert witnesses, there are certain rules that must be followed. These witnesses offer specialized knowledge related to the accident, rather than simply providing eyewitness accounts of what occurred. To utilize an expert witness, there are typically procedural requirements that must be met, including certification by the court regarding their area of expertise. It’s important to note that only certain individuals can be qualified as experts, and their use may differ depending on the type of case being heard.
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What Do Expert Witnesses Do in a Maryland Personal Injury Case?
Expert witnesses are typically gathered for three distinct purposes, although there may be additional ways in which they can be utilized. The first is for certificates of merit or qualified expert reports. In Maryland, many medical malpractice lawsuits necessitate a certificate from a qualified expert affirming that they have examined the plaintiff’s assertion and concluded that there is a credible argument that the doctor in question made errors. This process aids in eliminating feeble or baseless claims.
The second purpose is for parties to clarify intricate information regarding the caseinogen cases. It can be challenging to comprehend the cause of an accident or how the facts presented relate to complex medical or scientific outcomes. In such situations, experts are often required to explain how exposure to certain chemicals leads to cancer.
One of the main reasons to seek an expert witness is to provide clarity on how the defendant can be held responsible. Certain industries and fields require specific knowledge that can be difficult for those without expertise to grasp. For instance, in medical malpractice cases, professionals in the field are often required to determine whether a doctor acted appropriately. Similarly, in cases involving defective products, manufacturing experts can be called upon to assess whether proper procedures were followed in the production process.
What Are the Rules for Expert Witnesses in Maryland Personal Injury Cases?
In Maryland cases, the appointment of expert witnesses and the criteria for utilizing expert witness testimony are outlined in Chapter 700 of the Maryland Rules of Evidence. The following are the main rules governing how expert witnesses are used in Maryland:
In discussing what typical witnesses can testify about, Rule 701 sets boundaries on the opinions they can provide. Unless a witness is certified as an expert, their opinions must be restricted to reasonable perspectives based on what they experienced which can assist the jury in determining the facts. For instance, if a witness claims that the defendant was driving recklessly, they may not have the qualifications to make such a statement. Regardless, summarizing and explaining actions such as swerving, sudden stops and starts, and other reckless driving issues is a common way to provide context. Expert witnesses may have more leeway in their testimonies.
Admitting Expert Opinions
When it comes to admitting expert witness opinions, Rule 702 is the governing principle. In order to qualify, the party must demonstrate that the witness has the necessary training, knowledge, or experience. For instance, a medical doctor serving as an expert witness would require an actual medical degree and years of experience in their field. Secondly, the party must establish that the expert is appropriate for the specific subject matter. In cases involving doctors, a physician’s assistant or nurse may not be the most suitable expert. Finally, the party must demonstrate that there are sufficient facts available for the expert to base their opinion on. Without relevant facts, an expert opinion cannot be presented in the case.
Basis for Their Opinions
When creating their expert opinion, the evidence and information reviewed by experts do not necessarily need to be admissible in court. Often, there is evidence that cannot be presented to the jury but can still be used to inform the expert’s report. In certain situations, the court may present this evidence to the jury with specific instructions on how it can be utilized.
Offering Opinions on the “Ultimate Issue”
In civil injury cases, expert witnesses are frequently called upon to share their professional opinions regarding the liability of the defendant. Unlike regular witnesses, these experts are authorized to provide their expert insight on the ultimate issue of who was at fault.
What is Maryland’s 25% Rule for Expert Witnesses?
In Maryland, there is a specific criterion for selecting an expert witness for court cases. Typically, an expert witness should be someone who is actively practicing in the relevant field of expertise that they are providing testimony on. For instance, if a case requires a scientific opinion, it is essential to call upon a current working scientist. Similarly, if a medical expert is necessary, a practicing physician should be consulted.
Maryland has implemented a measure to guarantee fairness in medical malpractice cases. Previously known as the “20% rule,” it was updated in 2019 to the “25% rule.” According to Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 3-2A-04(b)(4)(ii), medical experts involved in these cases are prohibited from dedicating more than 25% of their work towards providing testimony as expert witnesses.
The Maryland legislature aimed to address the issue of “experts for hire” in medical malpractice cases. These are doctors who primarily testify as expert witnesses instead of treating patients. Some doctors even acquire their licenses with the sole purpose of qualifying as a witness, then shift their focus solely on providing expert testimony. In other cases, lawyers may try to use retired or semi-retired expert witnesses who are no longer actively practicing in the relevant field. To address this, the 25% rule encourages lawyers to use witnesses who are currently practicing in the relevant medical field.
Various sections of the code impose additional regulations on medical professionals, such as the necessity for recent “clinical experience” in their relevant field within the last five years. Certain regulations only apply to expert witnesses occupying specific positions.
Our Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
Contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291 to speak with our Baltimore personal injury lawyers and receive your free case assessment.