Presenting Evidence in a Personal Injury Case

In a personal injury case, whether or not evidence get admitted during trial depends on whether it is relevant. Evidence is logically relevant if it has any tendency to make any fact of consequence more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. Logically relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is outweighed by its prejudicial effect.

There are public policy reasons against admitting certain types of evidence. Proof of insurance to show that defendant is negligent or a defendant has ability to pay a substantial judgment is inadmissible for public policy reasons to encourage people to have insurance. There is a public policy exclusionary rule for offers to pay medical expenses.

Witnesses who testify at a personal injury trial must be competent and have personal knowledge. For example, though a police report may be introduced as evidence in a car accident case, the police officer responding to the accident after it occurred may not have personal knowledge on the car wreck.

Hearsay is an out of court statement offered for its truth. Hearsay is inadmissible unless an exception applies or a statement is not considered hearsay. Generally, a party’s words or acts may be offered as evidence in court against the party.

The public records hearsay exception allows a government record to be admitted into evidence when a record is maintained by the government and is: (1) a record of the activities of the government, (2) prepared in accordance with a duty imposed by law, or (3) an investigation duly authorized by law. For example, in a car wreck, the police report was an ordinary record made in the course of a police officer’s duties.

A statement qualifies as a present state of mind or present physical condition if a declarant makes a statement of his then existing state of mind or physical condition. Under the federal rules of evidence, a statement of a declarant’s then existing state of mind or physical condition may be used to prove the existence of the condition or to prove conduct in conformity with the expressed intent.

A statement qualifies as an excited utterance when it is made under the stress of a startling event, regarding the cause or circumstances of the event, by a declarant with personal knowledge. For example, a car accident is a startling event. A statement made immediately after the crash may be an excited utterance, but a made 3 hours after the accident, may not.

A statement qualifies as a present sense impression when it describes or explains an event while perceiving it or immediately thereafter. A bystander seeing a car accident making a statement 3 minutes after watching the accident may qualify as a present sense impression.

In a personal injury case, a witness must have personal knowledge on what he is testifying to. An expert witness may state an opinion if (1) the witness has scientific or specialized knowledge on the subject in which he testifies that assists a trier of fact, (2) the witness qualifies as an expert, (3) the witness possesses reasonable probability regarding his opinion, (4) the opinion is supported by a proper factual basis.

Whether or not evidence is admissible during trial affects the resolution of a personal injury case.