The Importance of Expert Witnesses in Maryland Personal Injury Cases

Many Maryland personal injury cases involving car crashes and slip-and-fall accidents raise issues that most jurors have experience within their own lives. However, in Maryland medical malpractice cases and claims involving a dangerous or defective product, there are often complex scientific or medical issues that are beyond the average juror’s expertise. In these cases, the court may allow both parties to call an expert witness.

Under Maryland Rule 5-702, the court may allow expert witness testimony, “if the court determines that the testimony will assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or in determining a fact in issue.” If allowed to testify, an expert can provide their opinion regarding issues within their expertise to help the jury understand concepts that may otherwise be confusing.

Before a court allows a party to call an expert witness, the court considers three factors:

  • whether the witness is qualified as an expert through their knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education;
  • whether testimony on the subject would be appropriate in the case; and
  • whether a sufficient factual basis exists to support the expert’s testimony.

Determining which expert witness to call is a strategic decision that can have an enormous impact on a case. Expert witnesses are often thoroughly cross-examined by the opposing party, who will attempt to expose weakness in the expert’s methods and conclusions. In a recent case, the court considered whether an expert’s prior disciplinary history was admissible.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident involving the defendant. The plaintiff planned on calling an expert witness to explain the extent of her injuries. The plaintiff’s expert was a doctor whose medical license was previously placed on probation. The defendant wanted to tell the jury this fact, as well as the reasons why the expert was placed on probation.

The trial court determined that, because the expert’s license was not in probationary status at the time of the trial, evidence of the expert’s prior disciplinary history was inadmissible. The defendant appealed that decision, and the appellate court reversed, holding that the jury should be informed about the expert’s disciplinary history. The court explained that the credibility of expert witnesses is very important, and that this information could help the jury form an opinion about the expert.

The court went on the explain that the reason for the disciplinary action may be admissible on a case-by-case basis. However, in this case, the reason for the disciplinary action was precluded by a separate evidentiary rule. For that reason, the court determined that the jury should not be informed about why the expert’s license was placed on probation.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, or any other type of personal injury accident, contact the dedicated injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, our experienced team of skilled and compassionate Maryland car accident attorneys works diligently to pursue full and fair compensation for each of our clients. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

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