How Evidentiary Hearings Work In Texas Personal Injury Cases
A lot of lawyers are great at disagreeing with each other, that's for sure. One of the many things many lawyers like to argue about is whether some piece of evidence should be allowed in before the jury. The rules of evidence can be a little confusing at times to even the most experienced lawyer, so opposing attorneys often find reasons to disagree.
To read more about evidence and how it affects personal injury cases, click here.
As previously discussed, not all evidence is supposed to be heard by a jury. Courts have to perform a balancing act of giving the jury all the reliable information it needs to decide your case while preserving litigants' rights. Most of the time, lawyers will try to agree which pieces of evidence and testimony comply with the rules rather than pester the judge to decide. However, when they can't come to an agreement, they ask the court to hold an "evidentiary hearing" where the lawyers present their sides of their stories and leave it to the judge to decide. In this article, we will discuss how the process works.
Questions answered on this page
- What is an evidentiary hearing?
- How does an evidentiary hearing affect my personal injury case?
- How can a lawyer help me with a personal injury case?
No two evidentiary hearings are the same. They can last seconds or hours...
Great courtroom drama on TV seems to always involve a "surprise witness" or a shocking photo that the other lawyer didn't know about. Like most things on TV, this doesn't match up with reality. Instead, the general rule is that the plaintiff and defendant must exchange all the evidence they plan on using at trial long before the jury is assembled. This performs two functions: 1) it allows each side to prepare for the arguments and counter-arguments needed to address the evidence, and 2) lawyers can make sure improper evidence never makes it before the jury to begin with.
Think about it this way: once a jury hears something, they can't un-hear it. Regardless of what the rules of evidence say a jury can consider, human beings are human beings and generally cannot "disregard" evidence. If your attorney thinks a piece of testimony, document, picture, or whatever doesn't comply with the rules, he'll want the judge to keep it out. Before trial, he'll request the court to hold a hearing where he tells the judge what evidence he wants out and why.
In our experience, we've seen judges rule on evidence in a snap. They've read litigants' motions and have already decided that, say, a snippet from a deposition was hearsay plain and simple and it should be excluded. Nonetheless, judges usually give each side the chance to say their peace:
- Your lawyer: Judge, as we detail in our motion, the deposition testimony that the defense plans to use in their Exhibit A is hearsay. The statement is plainly from another person and shouldn't be admitted pursuant to the rules.
- Judge: I'm inclined to agree, but will hear from defense counsel.
- Opposing lawyer: Your Honor, the statement at issue was made by the plaintiff's husband and meets the "party opponent" exception.
- Judge: The plaintiff's husband isn't party to this litigation and thus doesn't qualify as a party opponent. Exhibit A is struck and cannot be used at trial.
As you can well imagine, lawyers should only seek the court's help when it is absolutely necessary. You don't want a judge getting angry with you before trial even starts by asking him or her to take the time to rule on frivolous or ancillary issues. Your attorney will need to use good judgment about when and where to press the issue with the court. On the other hand, your lawyer can't be too timid---if there's a piece of evidence that shouldn't come in AND it could hurt your case, your lawyer must seek court intervention.
Our Attorneys Are Here To Help
Being good at this takes years of trial and error. Developing knowledge of the rules of evidence isn't enough---your lawyer must be able to apply them, and quickly, in court before a judge who holds these hearings all the time and likely doesn't have patience for chicanery. Don't trust the evidence of your case to a lawyer without the know-how to make sure the jury only hears what it's supposed to. If you've been injured, you need to call the experienced attorneys at Grossman Law Offices, based in Dallas, TX, today at (855) 326-0000. We're here to explain how the law applies to your claim.
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