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Daubert and its Effect on Expert Witnesses

Before the use of expert witnesses changed to the standard that is known in the electronic and computer age, Daubert had to go through a case with the Supreme Court. This eventually led to the way expert witnesses are used and how their testimony must be presented.

The initial case that was presented created the elements needed by an expert witness and the evaluations in which to ensure the provided opinions are reliable or based on scientific methods. Three total cases were processed and eventually caused the change and use of a professional for the need of an expert witness.

Before the new standard that changed how these professionals may provide testimony, an expert witness must have been generally accepted in his or her field of study. While this standard is still used in certain state jurisdictions, it is no longer the usual method. The Daubert process provides the use of these professionals as long as their testimony is relevant to the case and subject and reliable. For relevance, the information must qualify through the Rule 702 or be helpful to understanding the evidence provided or determining a fact of
the concern brought to the court. Reliability means certain factors are supplied that are considered by the judge. He or she deems the facts, opinions or information to be reliable based on the factors.

Factors for a Reliable Testimony

Many of the factors for an expert witness are dependent on his or her testimony, but some deal with his or her credentials. The technique or theory used to determine the outcome must be reproducible and tested. It must be reasonably assessed so that it may be deemed reliable. The method should have at some point been subject to either peer review or publication in some manner. There must be a rate of error as most scientific processes have a percentage of acceptable error. This would include the maintenance of standards, controls and any other similar applied matters.

The Rule 702 has expanded the ability of an expert witness in providing testimony since the change from the Frye standard. While there is more flexibility, there are now more questions that were already answered by previous guidelines. The need for the professional to be accepted and a top expert in his or her field is not necessary, but the methods and processes in coming to conclusions and the end opinion of the evidence and proof supplied must still be through standard and reliable procedures. These are often put up against others in the same field of study.

How Daubert Affects Expert Witnesses

Expert witness testimony is often crucial in uncovering certain facts, understanding how evidence affects the defendant or plaintiff and for judges or jury members to fully comprehend information or data supplied by the company or individual affected by the incident. While the previous standards were more rigid in permitting an expert to be used in the courtroom, the Daubert standards have altered this enough to provide flexibility so that the professional is not as scrutinized. This means that instead of being generally accepted by the scientific community, the individual’s testimony is tested for reliability and relevance to the case. The professional used does not have to be known or even someone that has been considered the top of his or her field.

The change has increased the amount of persons that may be used as experts. However, the judge may still deem someone not reliable or relevant enough based on how he or she found the conclusion. This would affect what may be used to complete a report and submit the opinion of what caused the problem, how it affects those involved and how this would assist or harm the plaintiff. While the Daubert standards used do provide more access to professionals, more freedom is granted to the judge to base his or her decision on whether the testimony is admissible.

The Expert Witness since Daubert

Many professionals have been contacted to become expert witnesses in court cases over the years. Since the change to what may be permitted through Daubert, these persons are able to have studied in more subjects than ever before. This has granted lawyers more access and freedom in obtaining a professional that is related to even the most obscure subject. As long as the methods used to conclude an examination by an expert witness may be tested or reproduced, the testimony is usually credible, reliable and relevant to the case material and evidence supplied.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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