In many Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, one or more of the parties involved present the testimony of an expert witness. As a general matter, expert testimony is necessary when certain issues in the case are beyond the common understanding of the jurors. However, jurisdictions vary widely on how they determine whether a specific expert’s testimony is admissible.
Most states apply either the Frye standard or the Daubert standard. These names come from the cases in which the doctrine was first applied. The differences between the two standards are complex, but as a general rule the Frye standard is more permissible and allows expert evidence to be considered if the methods used by the expert in reaching their conclusion were “generally accepted by the scientific community.”
The Daubert standard is more stringent, and puts the judge in the place of a gatekeeper of sorts. Under the Daubert standard, the proponent of the evidence must establish that the expert’s opinion is based on scientifically valid methodology. In making this determination, courts consider:
- Whether the expert’s technique can be and has been tested;
- Whether the proposed theory has been peer-reviewed;
- The method’s error rate, if it is known;
- The existence and maintenance of standards; and
- Whether the methodology has accepted widespread acceptance in the scientific community.