Neurologists update expert witness guidelines

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 6, 2006

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The American Academy of Neurology updated its 16-year-old expert witness testimony guidelines calling for tougher credentials and advising physicians to remain impartial.

The revised version includes a new section that defines elements of medical expert testimony, such as evaluating medical records and formulating an opinion, "to assist the court in understanding medical evidence."

As before, the qualifications affirm that experts must have a valid license to practice and require the expert to specialize in the area relevant to the case. But if a doctor is not practicing, the guidelines added that the expert must have relevant publication or teaching experience within three to five years of providing testimony.

The revised version also revamped guidelines to ensure that compensation and testimony are not tied to the outcome of the litigation. With regard to conduct, the new guidelines restate that "it is unethical for a medical expert to tie the level of compensation in a particular case to the outcome of that case." But the AAN added that medical expert witnesses who violate the rules of conduct are subject to peer review.

After increasing complaints from peers against other neurologists who provided expert witness testimony, the AAN decided the revision was overdue. The purpose of the new guidelines is "to promote expert testimony that is competent and grounded in science." The new guidelines took effect Jan. 10.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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