How Evidence Is Used In a Texas Personal Injury Case
It's hard to overstate the importance of evidence for personal injury cases. Without it, you literally have no case whatsoever. Injury cases are not based on even the most brilliant lawyer's allegations before a jury, but on hard evidence. This is because what you're asking a jury to do is publicly declare the defendant at-fault for a serious accident and order him to give you money. That's a serious thing and no judge or jury should take that task lightly. Think about it this way: someone tells you your most trusted friend stole $20 from you; will you believe them? Not likely, and especially not without a lot of proof.
Below, we'll briefly touch on the main types of evidence you'll encounter and then introduce the main concepts and rules your personal injury attorney will have to follow.
Questions answered on this page
- How is evidence used in a personal injury case?
- What types of evidence can be used in a personal injury case?
- How can attorney help me with gathering evidence before going to trial?
Overview of Evidence
Evidence is proof of allegations. This is occasionally blockbuster evidence like a video of the accident clearly showing the defendant driver running through a red light, but is much more likely countless statements, records, and documents that add up over the litigation's course that show the defendant was at fault. This requires painstaking efforts on your legal team's part to find the evidence, secure it, and be able to present it at trial.
An important thing to keep in mind is that while most personal injury claims have similar evidentiary components, the evidence needed for your case could be anything and can come from anywhere. It's not just the testimony of a witness, but if it adds to your story, a pair of glasses or a discarded receipt might turn the balance. And a main strain running through all the rules of evidence is that, no matter how great it is for your case, it's not worth a darn thing if it isn't admissible---that is, will the judge let it into courtroom at all.
Testimony is spoken evidence that is offered by a witness regarding their understanding of your accident and its aftermath. There are two kinds of witnesses: first-hand witnesses (often called "eyewitnesses"), and expert witnesses. First-hand witnesses testify about their observation of what happened. For example, if a car ran a red light and crashed into another car, an eyewitness who was present at the scene of the crash could testify about what he saw. Eyewitness testimony is some of the most common and persuasive evidence for a jury.
On the other hand, expert testimony is testimony given by someone who is an expert in his or her field who offered to help the jury better understand what happened. For example, if the driver of the car that hit the plaintiff claims he wasn't intoxicated at the time of the accident, a trained toxicologist could explain what the driver's blood-alcohol levels were and how the alcohol impacted the driver's reaction times.
Documents containing relevant information about the events are almost always introduced. For example, in many personal injury cases, the victim will suffer from some injury that requires medical attention. As part of the damages for the personal injury claim the victim is entitled to receive the cost of his medical care. In order to prove what the cost of his medical care is, the victim could present a copy of his actual medical bill to the court. This would be documentary evidence. Documentary evidence is useful because it is usually pretty clear cut and easy to understand.
Demonstrative "evidence" is created by your attorney and is designed to make complicated concepts more easily understood for the jury. It can be a chart, video, or physical demonstration like a model of the cars in the accident that what happened in the accident.
Your lawyer will need to be well-versed in the following legal issues to get the evidence you need into court:
Your lawyer needs to have a mastery over key rules of evidence. This is because your lawyer is the only one who can object to the evidence coming into court, and if he misses his chance to object, then you lose your right forever to keep information in or out of court. These main rules developed over hundreds of years and courts are still grappling with how to apply them. Further, courts of appeals and the Texas Legislature constantly make adjustments and tweaks to how each one fits into the personal injury case context:
- Attorney-client privilege: Conversations between lawyers and clients cannot enter into the courtroom. This allows you to speak freely with your attorney without fear of those discussions becoming part of the court record.
- Spousal privilege: Husbands and wives are allowed to keep private conversations amongst themselves. An astounding number of attorneys are ignorant of how this rule applies and fail to counsel their clients appropriately.
- Priest-penitent privilege: Any confidential communications made privately to a clergyman can be kept out of court. We want people to confide in ministers.
- Hearsay: Many out-of-court statements cannot come into court. This is because the jury should be able to judge the speaker themselves. Hearsay is famously confusing and has many exceptions.
- Medical records: In every personal injury case, the use of medical records to prove damage is central to your claims.
- Psychological records: In many cases, victims suffer mental anguish after their severe injuries. Often, the opinions of mental health professionals is vital to show the jury that you've suffered.
- Inflammatory evidence: Your lawyer needs to keep any evidence out of court that only serves to make the jury angry at you. This could be personal information about you that is "relevant" but embarrassing.
- Subsequent remedial measures: If a defendant changed their ways after an accident, the jury cannot hear about it.
- Proving up evidence: As stated, it's not enough to have evidence. Your attorney must make it conform to the rules so that it's admissible in court.
- Affidavits: Witnesses can testify to some aspects of your case without having to be present in the court. Using affidavits effectively is tricky and defense lawyers often try to circumvent the rules with them.
Hire the right lawyer for your case
Knowing what kind of evidence is useful and persuasive for a jury is something that takes experience. You want an attorney that has years of experience of using different pieces of evidence to successfully persuade a jury of their client's case. Our attorneys at Grossman Law Offices, based in Dallas, TX, have over twenty five years of experience and have won literally thousands of cases for their clients. Call today for a free consultation regarding your personal injury claim at (855) 326-0000.
Related Articles for Further Reading:
- Common Motions and Hearings in Personal Injury Litigation
- A Comprehensive Guide To Texas Car Accident Lawsuits
- Who Can Recover Damages for Loss of Consortium?