Most people have a strong intuitive idea of what “evidence” is.
The definition of evidence is far more stringent, however, in court. In state courts, the jurisdiction’s applicable rules of evidence determine what evidence is and is not admissible.
It’s not always obvious to a non-lawyer what evidence a court will accept or reject. A skilled personal injury lawyer, however, will know the rules of evidence by heart.
Types of Evidence in Personal Injury Cases
Following is a listing of some of the most important types of evidence used in personal injury cases.
An eyewitness may testify under oath about what they personally saw and heard. Generally, they may not offer conclusions. “The defendant was staggering”, for example, is acceptable. “The defendant was intoxicated”, on the other hand, would probably not be acceptable.
A police report is useful in car accident settlement negotiations, but they are generally inadmissible in court. Instead, you will need to call the officer who wrote the report as a witness and question them directly. The purpose of this requirement is to allow the opposing party to cross-examine the officer.
Police testimony is quite credible because police are trained to be observant and because they typically have no stake in the outcome of the case.
Expert testimony is among the most credible of all evidence, even though expert witnesses are almost always being paid for their testimony. A court will allow an expert to testify as to their conclusion, as long as it relates to their field. Many expert witnesses are “professional witnesses,” meaning they retired from their field of expertise and now testify full-time.
Examples of expert witnesses include:
- Rehabilitation expert to calculate an injury victim’s rehabilitation expenses;
- Medical experts to determine whether a doctor committed malpractice;
- Accident reconstruction expert to determine exactly how an accident happened and whose fault it was; and
- Financial expert to estimate the victim’s future lost earnings and future medical expenses.
Many other types of expert witnesses may testify as well.
A party may use certain parts of the transcript of a deposition for certain purposes. If a witness contradicts their deposition testimony in court, for example, the cross-examining lawyer can confront the witness with their contradictory deposition testimony to discredit them.
Documentary evidence might include medical records, evidence of lost earnings, affidavits, waivers of liability, and other documents. The country must confirm the authenticity of the documents and any signatures that appear on them.
Photographs and Videos
Photographs can serve as particularly convincing evidence. Always photograph the scene of an accident before you leave, at least if your medical condition allows you to. CCTV footage of an accident is a lawyer’s dream evidence.
“Physical evidence” might include a damaged vehicle, broken glass, skid marks, debris, weapons, tools, clothing, equipment, and other tangible items.
Following is a listing of evidence that is generally considered inadmissible. Remember, however, that there are exceptions to almost every rule.
No evidence is admissible if it is irrelevant. In some cases, however, evidence is relevant even when its relevance is difficult to establish. In other words, the relevancy of evidence is not always an open and shut case.
Prejudicial Effect Exceeds Probative Value
Imagine a lawyer trying to introduce particularly gruesome murder photos into evidence in a wrongful death case. The judge might decide that the relevance of the photos to the mere fact of the murder is slight, while their emotional impact could bias the jury into deciding against a defendant against whom little evidence has been offered.
Subsequent Remedial Measures
Under some states’ rules of evidence, you cannot use “subsequent remedial measures” to prove the prior existence of a dangerous condition. This means that an injury victim cannot use the fact that the defendant repaired a dangerous condition as evidence that the condition was dangerous in the first place.
Imagine the following scenario. A small child drowns in an unfenced swimming pool. The child’s parents file a wrongful death lawsuit and the defendant seeks to fence in the pool to avoid further tragedies.
However, the defendant’s lawyer warns him that if he fences in the pool, the child’s parents can use his action as evidence against him. He abandons his plan to fence in the pool, and another child drowns. This hypothetical illustrates the reason behind this rule.
Hearsay is “an out-of-court statement that is offered in court as evidence of the truth of the matter asserted.” It is inadmissible unless an exception applies. Hearsay can be written or spoken. A common example of hearsay is the contents of a police report.
As long as the police officer who wrote the report is available to testify, the contents of a police report are inadmissible hearsay.
A Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer Can Make a Tremendous Difference
In law, nothing matters unless you can prove it. Unfortunately, you cannot prove anything without admissible evidence.
An experienced personal injury lawyer, however, can perform an investigation and gather admissible evidence that you can use to press your claim. Most attorneys in the field offer free consultations as well, so you can receive legal advice at no cost to you. The lawyers at Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers are here to help, so contact us online or give us a call at (602) 595-5559 today!