The Expert Witness Standard in Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Cases

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.

Up until 2016, Washington, D.C. courts applied a modified Frye analysis. However, in a 2016 opinion, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals adopted the Daubert test. The court was concerned that the Frye test precluded a court from considering whether an expert’s methodology was reliable, and focused solely only on whether it was “generally accepted” among the scientific community. Thus, the court explained that the Frye test “excludes scientifically reliable evidence which is not yet generally accepted, and admits scientifically unreliable evidence which although generally accepted, cannot meet rigorous scientific scrutiny.”

The court acknowledged that the Daubert method was not perfect in that it could produce inconsistent results and allows for judges who are not scientifically trained to evaluate the work of scientists. However, the court explained that the Daubert analysis allowed for the consideration of a methodology’s reliability, which should ferret out “bad science” over time.

Have You Been injured in a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Accident?

If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in any kind of Washington, D.C. personal injury accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the nature of your injuries, expert testimony may be important to your case. At the Washington, D.C. personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we have extensive experience working in both Daubert and Frye jurisdictions. We also have a broad network of expert witnesses with whom we consult to help prove our clients’ cases. To learn more about how we can help you recover for your injuries, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses the Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitor in Recent Personal Injury Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 16, 2018

Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s Premises Liability Case against Ski Resort, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 2, 2018

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