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What is a Neurology Expert Witness?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2017
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A neurology expert witness is a person with specialized knowledge of neurology — the science of the nervous system — who is hired to testify in a court of law. Neurology expert witnesses are typically medical doctors who have specialized in neurology. Lawyers hire the experts to share their opinions or expertise with the court in lawsuits that involve complicated neurological facts that judges and juries would not be expected to know on their own.

A case that involves a neurology expert witness likely centers on a neurological injury or neurological condition. A plaintiff who has sustained neurological damage or who suffers from neurological degeneration may call a neurology expert witness to testify to the extent of his injuries. Similarly, a plaintiff who consulted a neurologist for treatment and believes the neurologist injured him may hire a neurology expert witness to explain standard practice and industry diligence in a bid to sustain a medical malpractice claim. Brain tumors, brain and spinal injuries, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and multiple sclerosis are all examples of conditions on which a neurology expert witness may be called to testify.

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The primary role of the neurology expert witness is to apply specialized knowledge to the facts of a case. Claims involving complicated science and injuries that are not always easily understood or observed can be difficult to prove. Parties retain expert witnesses to ensure that the judge and the jury have a comprehensive understanding of the situation. An expert witness who has spent his life dealing with specific injuries and conditions can provide insight that can help fact-finders come to a more balanced verdict than lawyers’ arguments could on their own.

Expert witnesses are an element of the common law trial system that originated in England and has been adopted in the United States and some English commonwealth nations, including Canada and Australia. In the United States, expert witness testimony is specifically allowed in both civil and criminal actions by virtue of Federal Rule of Evidence 702. That rule provides that expert testimony should be permitted so long as "(1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data; (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (3) the expert has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case." Whether a witness is suitable to testify as an expert is generally a matter for the judge to decide before proceedings begin. Once permitted to testify, however, an expert can say whatever he thinks, and it is up to the jury or the presiding judge to weigh the expert’s testimony against the other evidence.

Neurology expert witnesses are generally selected based on their professional record, but they can also be selected based on testimony they have given in similar proceedings in the past. Expert witnesses, particularly those in medicine, are often “career” witnesses — they are frequently hired to testify and often make substantial income from court appearances. Even though all expert witnesses must take an oath of truthfulness, one of the most frequent critiques of medical “career” experts is that their opinions are merely purchased by lawyers and are not genuine expert thought.

Both sides in litigation are allowed to hire expert witnesses. A party who believes his opponent’s expert is simply a mouthpiece can present his own expert in an attempt to discredit the opponent’s expert testimony. At the end of the day, neurology expert witnesses, like all expert witnesses, are but one part of a trial. Their presence can be helpful, but the outcome ultimately rests on what the judge or jury decides after considering all of the facts, evidence, and testimony.

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