Your personal injury lawyer must keep out evidence that needlessly hurts your case
A parent or teacher probably told you at some point, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say nothing at all." In personal injury cases, lawyers can basically ask a court to enforce this rule in a motion in limine.
The English word "limit" has the same Latin root as "limine." Your lawyer is asking the judge to rule that the defendant cannot so much as mention certain bits of evidence. Below, we'll briefly outline how and why an attorney can limit what the jury hears.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What is a motion in limine?
- How does a motion in limine work in a personal injury case?
Why would we ever limit what a jury can hear?
As a threshold matter, it seems odd on its face that we would keep anything from the jurors. After all, they can decide what they think is noteworthy or not, AND your attorney can argue why they should ignore bad evidence. But many judges often say that "you can't un-ring a bell." That is, once a jury hears something, they won't be able to un-hear it. So as to not poison the well, a judge will make a pre-trial determination outside of the presence of the jury that the other side cannot use certain evidence.
The types of evidence a jury can't hear or see will usually be of the "inflammatory" variety. That is, something outrageous that adds nothing fairly to the defendant's case, but that just makes you look bad. These could be allegations that you once engaged in sexual improprieties, irrelevant drug and alcohol consumption, or some other embarrassing behavior. But that's not all. A strongly prepared attorney will have combed through the defendant's evidence in search of pictures, testimony, or documents that the defendant's attorney did not properly prove up---that is, did not follow courtroom protocol in trying to get the evidence admitted. For example, if the opposing lawyer plans on using a quote from a deposition that was asked improperly, your lawyer should ask the judge before trial to disallow him from using it.
How the motion in limine process works
First, your lawyer will need to do a final review of all the evidence prior to trial. As you can imagine, during the many months or even years of a litigation, there are countless documents, hours upon hours of deposition testimony, and thousands of pages of medical records that have been created. Your attorney will need to take painstaking efforts to go through all of this. During that time, he needs to identify any evidence that he believes should be kept out of court.
Second, he drafts a motion---basically, a brief written summary of the law, what evidence he wants kept out it, and why. He'll need more than just a general understanding of the law on evidence because courts all over Texas grapple every day with these same issues, and sometimes the rules change without warning. Your attorney will then attach the offending evidence to the motion and have it filed with the court's clerk.
Lastly, there will be a hearing. The judge by this point has read your attorney's motion and the defendant's. He or she will want to ask each lawyer questions and press them for why the court should side with them. This is your lawyer's job and you won't need to be involved at all.
Only a well-prepared, thorough attorney will give you the representation you deserve.
Filing a motion in limine is no small thing: your lawyer is asking actual evidence to be kept from the jury. In order to give you the best chance of success, he'll have devote a lot of hours and years of experience to make a convincing argument. Choose your attorney with processes like this in mind---you never know what tricks an opposing attorney might try to play. The Texas injury lawyers at Grossman Law Offices have 25 years' experience in winning their clients cases.
Other articles about personal injury cases that may be helpful:
- Explaining the New and Independent Cause Defense
- Can I Recover Lost Income in My Personal Injury Lawsuit?
- Sharing the Blame: How Vicarious Liability Works