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Using experts to testify in New Jersey

The medical field is scientific in nature. This means that those who work in this industry must be adept at handling complex matters that require specialized knowledge. Medical professionals can oftentimes communicate using this scientific language, but, to most of us lay people, the terminology is well beyond what we can understand. This holds true not only for the language itself but also to medical techniques, studies, and research.

This can become problematic when an individual is hurt by a negligent doctor and they pursue a medical malpractice claim. Of course, if the matter proceeds to trial, it may become imperative to use expert witnesses to testify about the injury suffered, the acceptable standard of care, and potential causes of the injury in question. Since the medical field can be difficult to understand, the courts need to assess the validity of any scientific testimony before it can be admitted into evidence.

Most states recognize what is referred to as the "Daubert Standard." This standard requires judges to assess whether the evidence being proffered is based on reliable scientific methods and principals, whether an adequate amount of data has shown that it is reliable and trustworthy, and whether additional evidence indicates reliability when applying the evidence to the facts of the case at hand. It is hoped that this will allow courts to accept testimonial evidence about scientific measures that are trustworthy and applicable to the case being heard.

New Jersey, though, has not updated its approach toward expert testimony since 1991. It is clear, however, that the Daubert Standard is not followed. The Daubert Standard is recognized in federal courts, and there have been witnesses who have been allowed to testify in New Jersey cases, but not in federal cases where Daubert is applied.

So, what does this mean for New Jersey residents who are seeking compensation for their medical malpractice injuries? It means that they need to put in the extra work necessary to ensure the medical evidence they have gathered will be admissible in court. Those who want to learn more about how to do this should consider contacting a qualified legal professional.

Source: New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, "Standards for Expert Testimony," accessed on May 1, 2017

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