Expert testimony is useful in many Maryland accident cases, and in some cases, expert testimony is essential. Under Maryland Rule of Evidence 5-702, expert testimony may be admitted if the court finds that the testimony will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue. In determining whether to admit expert testimony, a court will consider whether the witness is qualified as an expert, whether the testimony is appropriate, and whether there is a sufficient factual basis to support the testimony.
A recent decision of the Supreme Court of Virginia considered whether a trial court properly excluded expert testimony in a wrongful death case arising from “an unexplainable single-vehicle accident” in which both occupants died. According to the decision, one morning, a tractor-trailer owned by a company left its lane of travel on a highway and rolled down an embankment in Rockbridge County, Virginia. The crash killed both of the occupants of the vehicle: an employee of the company, who was transporting fertilizer, and the plaintiff, who was a friend of the employee and accompanied the employee on the day of the crash.
The plaintiff (administrator of the friend’s estate) filed a complaint against the employer and against the administrator of the employee’s estate, seeking damages for wrongful death.
The plaintiff alleged that the friend was a passenger in the tractor-trailer and that the employee was negligent because he allegedly fell asleep while driving. The employer disputed that the employee was the driver and argued that the friend was driving and further argued that if the employee was driving, he was not negligent. The case went to trial and the jury found in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff appealed the decision.
On appeal, one of the issues the plaintiff raised was the exclusion of expert testimony from a neurologist. The neurologist had planned to testify that the employee’s untreated sleep problem was compounded by his use of sedating medication, which appeared in the toxicology report. However, the expert admitted that the employee could have had an aneurysm or a heart attack, he did not know how long the employee had been taking medication, whether he developed a tolerance to it, whether his weight had changed, or the effect of the medications at the time. The court found that the expert’s opinion was invalid because it was based on assumptions that were not established. It reasoned that an expert cannot eliminate all possible causes until only one remains, without a sufficient basis for the conclusion. The court dismissed the other issues the plaintiff raised as well and affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendants.
Are Experts Required in Maryland Accident Cases?
Generally, experts are not required in Maryland personal injury cases. However, there are certain instances where an expert may be required or is beneficial to a plaintiff’s case. For example, under Maryland law, medical malpractice cases require a medical expert witness. Otherwise, an expert may be helpful anytime the issues presented in the case are beyond the common understanding of most jurors.
Contact a Maryland Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Maryland car accident, contact a skilled Maryland personal injury attorney as soon as possible. At Lebowitz & Mzhen LLC, our Maryland personal injury attorneys have over two decades of combined experience representing personal injury victims in Baltimore and across the Maryland and Washington, D.C. region. Our team has the tenacity and resources to pursue all responsible parties for causing a client’s harm or loss in order to get clients’ lives back on track. For a free consultation, call us at 1-800-654-1949 or contact us online.