By Dr. Ken Manges, Ph.D. | Forensic Psychologist
"I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals." ― Winston S. Churchill
All experts are not created equal. Experts, whether they are Forensic Psychologists, Vocational Experts, and Medical or Economic experts have various skill sets and have differing perspectives on their field of expertise. As a litigator, the attorney understands that the expert must be able to be recognized by the court, i.e. having knowledge that is beyond that of the juror. Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny was a classic example of an expert who underwent a Voir Dire because she had no degree in mechanics and the understanding of tire treads, but (an understandably this was for the movies) was accepted by the judge as having the expertise to testify. Experts do not have to have a Ph.D., M.D. or MBA. They do have to have the knowledge and understanding of their field that goes beyond the ken of the average person.
In some states (Illinois, New York, Texas, Florida, Ohio to name a few), the expert Forensic Psychologist must also be a treating practitioner besides their role and means of making a living as an expert who testifies.
Further, experts who are treating the plaintiff cannot be considered a Forensic expert, although this distinction is sometimes not followed resolutely. In some states, a treating doctor is asked to testify to a reasonable degree of certainty when in other states their testimony would be allowed as a fact witness, but not as an expert because they have an advocacy role with the plaintiff.
As a Forensic Psychologist, who is a member of the American Psychological Association the two roles, treating and Forensic expert are distinct and are not sanctioned. That is, the treating psychologist may be called in to testify about a patient’s condition but they are asked to refrain from asserting within a reasonable degree of certainty any negligence that may have caused the damages and to offer instead how the plaintiff may be suffering as a consequence of an event. The distinction is not considered insignificant and a treating provider’s testimony can be ruled inadmissible when there is an objection about their advocacy role.