Personal injury Library

What Are Affidavits?

Affidavits are a tool to allow testimony into court without the witness being physically present.

In our discussion of hearsay, we talked about how courts generally require "testimony" to be live. We want juries to watch how people answer important questions about your case so they can assess for themselves whether to believe it or not.

But in modern trial practice, courts allow some forms of out-of-court testimony that, while not central to your case, is needed. This testimony can be submitted on paper as a sworn statement---that's what an affidavit actually is. Below, we'll discuss how and why courts deviate from the standard rule that witnesses have to be put on the stand to testify.

Questions answered on this page

  • How is an affidavit used in a personal injury case?
  • What is an affidavit?
  • How can attorney help me with a personal injury case?

Litigants can only use affidavits for limited purposes.

Lawsuits would be rather mundane affairs if every witness could give their side of the story just by writing it out on a sheet of paper. Each case would come down to affidavits saying the defendant caused the accident on one side, and no, the plaintiff is at fault on the other. You don't have to be a lawyer to know how worthless this would all be. How would the affidavits be judged? Who has more? Whose are more passionate and/or detailed? Instead, we want important testimony cross-examined in the plain light of day before the jury.

But there are dozens of ancillary issues that can be dispensed with without live testimony.

The main issues are what courts call "proving up" records. For example, let's say you want a 911 call transcript to come into evidence. It's great for your case because the person who called told the 911 operator that "I just saw this blue car [yours] hit by a red car [the defendant's] after the red car ran a stoplight." It might seem logical that you you'd have to do is order the transcript from the police department and enter it into evidence. But the court doesn't just automatically believe you that the transcript is legitimate.

After all, it could be a recording that you and a friend made in your garage for all we know and not the "real" transcript. So rather than make the poor guy or woman who works in the police records department have to trudge down to court every time a trial happened and testify that, yes, that IS the transcript from the day of the accident, courts allow that person to authenticate the transcript through an affidavit.

Affidavits can be used not only for 911 transcripts, but police reports, business records, psychological records, and medical records. These simple documents require the person responsible for managing an entity's records to swear before a notary public---a person certified to administer an oath---that the documents or recordings are true, complete, and correct. If done correctly, a court will admit the documents into evidence.

When one document could change your whole case, you need a thorough lawyer on your side.

The old axiom that "for want of a nail, a shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, a horse was lost, and for want of a horse, the battle was lost" applies in personal injury cases. Great claims have been lost because lawyers forgot to pay attention to details like making sure all the affidavits required have been done, and done correctly. Don't waste your case on a law firm that doesn't have the attorneys and staff to get your case across the finish line. Call Grossman Law Offices, based in Dallas, TX, at (855) 326-0000 for a free consultation.

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