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Expert Witness Testimony in South Carolina Personal Injury Cases


Somewhere on the Internet today, a website is claiming that your least favorite vegetable cures cancer.  Why don’t doctors just tell patients to eat eggplant, cauliflower, or kale instead of referring them for surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy, then?  It is because the recommended treatments are constantly being reviewed; researchers and practitioners publish case reports and the results of experiments and clinical trials; doctors use this publicly available information to decide the standard of care.  If you got worse after visiting a doctor for medical treatment, you might have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit if you can demonstrate that the doctor failed to uphold the standard of care.  To do this, your South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer will need to work with medical expert witnesses.

The Role of Medical Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

In personal injury lawsuits, including medical malpractice cases, you must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries.  To do this, many plaintiffs summon a medical expert witness to show that the kind of injuries the plaintiff suffered are consistent with a particular kind of traumatic accident or, in the case of a medical malpractice lawsuit, a particular kind of medical error or drug reaction.  The most convincing medical expert witness testimony supports the expert’s professional opinion with published research.

The South Carolina Standard for Scientific Expert Witness Testimony

It is unreasonable to expect that judges and jurors will have a strong background in medicine; therefore, case law has developed standards for expert witness testimony, so that medical experts in civil and criminal trials cannot use their scientific expertise to confuse or deliberately mislead the judge or jury.  Most states used to use the Frye standard, named after a 1923 U.S. Supreme Court case; it dictates that the theories on which the expert relies must have widespread acceptance in the scientific community.  The Daubert standard, based on a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1990s, is much more strict; for example, it requires the published studies cited by experts to be transparent about their methodology and rate of error, and, in jury trials, it requires judges to pre-approve the experts’ testimony before the expert can present it to jurors.

South Carolina does not follow Daubert or Frye; instead it has its own standard for expert witness testimony, based on the South Carolina Supreme Court decisions State v. Jones in 1979 and State v. White in 2007.  The South Carolina standard has the following requirements:

  • Studies cited by expert witnesses must be published in peer-reviewed journals
  • The studies must state their methodology and rate of error
  • The ideas expressed by the expert must have general acceptance in the medical or scientific community; the expert should not rely on controversial theories
  • The expert must have formal education and/or professional experience that qualifies him or her to make authoritative judgments about the subject about which he or she is testifying

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

Your Columbia personal injury lawyer will support your claims with the most credible and convincing expert witness testimony.  Contact The Stanley Law Group for help today.


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