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What is the Daubert standard?


Medical malpractice lawsuits can be tremendously complicated matters. Legal precedence, settlement negotiation, and witness examination and cross examination are just a few issues that must be addressed. In some medical malpractice cases, expert testimony becomes a pivotal piece of the claim. Sound expert testimony either for or against a plaintiff's assertions can be very persuasive to a judge and a jury. Therefore, it is important that Massachusetts residents familiarize themselves with how these experts' claims are assessed, and that their attorneys also know how to do so.

Expert testimony can be powerful and strengthening or damaging to an individual's claim. However, the scientific jargon they must rely on can be confusing and may leave jurors, the judge, and attorneys wondering if what has been said is truly reliable. Fortunately, a Supreme Court case from the 1990s provides us with a standard that can be used to determine if a scientist's assertions are scientifically valid and can be applied to the case at hand.

There are five elements that make up the standard. First, has the expert's technique or theory been tested appropriately? If not, then it may not be reliable. Second, has that theory or technique been peer-reviewed and published? Again, if not, then the scientific community has not spoken on its validity. Third, what is the error rate related to the theory or technique? Fourth, is the theory or technique subjected to a set of standards? If not, then results may be unreliable. Lastly, has the theory or technique acquired acceptance within the scientific field in which the expert works? If it has, then that may help show that the expert's testimony is legitimate, directly applicable, and relevant to the case at hand.

The law surrounding the allowance of expert testimony is in a constant state of flux, and the Daubert standard may not apply in all cases. However, it does allow one to grasp how expert testimony may be assessed and whether or not it is beneficial to his or her case. Yet, if one has been injured by a medical professional's negligence, then he or she may wish to consider seeking guidance from a Massachusetts attorney, who may be able to help him or her recover compensation.

Source: Legal Information Institute, "Daubert standard," accessed on Jan. 11, 2015

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