In a personal injury trial, the admissibility of evidence is crucial to the outcome of the case. Evidence is used to prove or disprove the elements of a claim or defense, and the court must determine whether the evidence offered is admissible under the rules of evidence. In this article, we will explore the most common types of evidence objections that can arise in a personal injury case and what they mean.
Hearsay is defined as an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In other words, it is evidence of what someone said outside of court that is being used to prove something in court. For example, if a witness testifies that they heard someone else say that a particular product was dangerous, that statement would be hearsay.
Hearsay evidence is usually not admissible in court because it is considered unreliable. The person who made the statement is not in court to be cross-examined, so there is no way to determine the accuracy of the statement. Additionally, the statement may be taken out of context or misremembered by the witness who heard it.
In a personal injury trial, hearsay evidence can be especially damaging because it can be used to prove liability or damages. For example, if a witness testifies that they heard the defendant admit fault for an accident, that statement could be hearsay if the defendant is not in court to confirm it.
If a party attempts to introduce hearsay evidence, the opposing party may object on the basis of hearsay. The court will then determine whether the evidence is hearsay and whether it is admissible under an exception to the hearsay rule.
Evidence must be relevant to the case in order to be admissible. Relevant evidence is evidence that tends to prove or disprove a fact that is at issue in the case. For example, in a personal injury case, evidence of a defective product would be relevant to prove liability.
If a party attempts to introduce evidence that is not relevant to the case, the opposing party may object on the basis of relevance. The court will then determine whether the evidence is relevant and whether it is admissible.
It is important to note that evidence can be excluded even if it is relevant if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury.
3. Character Evidence
Character evidence is evidence of a person's character that is offered to prove that the person acted in accordance with that character. For example, if a plaintiff in a personal injury case introduces evidence that the defendant has a history of reckless driving, that evidence would be character evidence.
Character evidence is generally not admissible in court because it is considered unfair to use a person's character to prove that they acted a certain way in a particular instance. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as when the evidence is offered to prove motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.
If a party attempts to introduce character evidence, the opposing party may object on the basis of character evidence. The court will then determine whether the evidence is character evidence and whether it is admissible under an exception to the character evidence rule.
4. Leading Questions
A leading question is a question that suggests a particular answer or directs the witness to a particular response. For example, if an attorney asks a witness, "You saw the defendant run the red light, didn't you?" that would be a leading question.
Leading questions are generally not allowed during direct examination because they can be used to influence the witness's testimony. However, they may be allowed during cross-examination, which is when the opposing party has the opportunity to question the witness.
If a party objects to a leading question, the court will determine whether the question is leading and whether it is admissible. If the court sustains the objection, the attorney must rephrase the question in a non-leading manner.
5. Opinion Evidence
Opinion evidence is evidence that involves an expert's opinion or a witness's opinion. Expert opinion testimony is admissible if the expert is qualified to testify and the opinion is based on sufficient facts or data and is the product of reliable principles and methods. Lay opinion testimony is admissible if it is rationally based on the witness's perception and is helpful to a clear understanding of the witness's testimony or the determination of a fact in issue.
For example, in a personal injury case, a medical expert may offer an opinion about the cause of the plaintiff's injuries, or a witness may offer an opinion about the speed of a vehicle involved in an accident.
If a party objects to opinion evidence, the court will determine whether the witness is qualified to offer an opinion and whether the opinion is based on sufficient facts and reliable principles and methods.
6. Best Evidence Rule
The Best Evidence Rule requires that the original or the best available evidence be used to prove a fact. For example, if a party wants to introduce a written contract into evidence, the original contract should be presented rather than a copy.
If a party objects to the introduction of evidence on the basis of the Best Evidence Rule, the court will determine whether the original or the best available evidence has been presented.
Foundation refers to the requirement that certain conditions must be met before evidence can be admitted. For example, if a party wants to introduce a photograph into evidence, they must first establish that the photograph is a fair and accurate representation of what it purports to depict.
If a party objects to the introduction of evidence on the basis of foundation, the court will determine whether the necessary foundation has been established.
Evidence objections play an important role in the trial of a personal injury case. Attorneys must be familiar with the rules of evidence and be prepared to object to evidence that is inadmissible. By understanding the most common types of evidence objections and their significance, attorneys can present a strong case and increase their chances of success. It is important for both parties to understand these objections and how they can impact the admissibility of evidence in order to present the strongest case possible.
Our experienced personal injury attorneys have the skill, knowledge, and resources to help you through the injury claims process and recover the financial compensation your case deserves. Since 1984, Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law, has recovered Billions of dollars in compensation for our clients. Montlick & Associates is ready to review your or your loved one's injury claim at no cost or obligation. Call us 24/7 at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333) to speak with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.
All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.