What are the qualification requirements for expert witnesses?

In our last post, we spoke a bit about the role of judges in determining the qualifications of expert witnesses and the reliability of their testimony. In this post, we wanted to take a brief look at what state law has to say about these qualifications.

The first issue addressed by state law is the qualifications for an expert witness to be able to offer an opinion on the correct standard of care in the case, whether in favor of or against the provider accused of negligence. As a general matter, experts who testify on the appropriate standard of care must be licensed health professional in either Michigan or another state. Further, experts must have specialized in the same specialty as the provider accused of negligence as of the time of the alleged negligence. 

An expert may meet the latter requirement in a couple ways. The first way is that, in the year preceding the alleged occurrence of negligence, the expert must have spent the majority of his or her professional time either in active clinical practice of the same health profession—and, if applicable, the same specialty—and/or instructing students, residents or researchers in that profession and specialty.

If the physician accused of negligence is a general practitioner, the expert must have spent the year preceding the alleged occurrence of negligence in active clinical practice as a general practitioner and/or instructing students, residents or researchers in the same health profession.

In our next post, we’ll look at the factors judges consider in evaluating the qualifications of expert witnesses who are not necessarily giving an opinion on the standard of care in a medical malpractice case

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