When is Hearsay Admissible as Evidence in an Injury Case?
Hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. For example, if a witness testifies that another person told them the defendant was driving recklessly, that testimony would be considered hearsay. Hearsay is generally inadmissible in court unless an exception applies or a rule keeps the statement outside the definition of hearsay.
Still, there are multiple exceptions where hearsay may be admissible as evidence in an injury case, depending on the particular rules of your state. If a witness testifies about a statement made by someone who is unavailable to testify, such as a victim who died, their hearsay statement could be admitted under the exception for statements made by unavailable declarants. Fortunately, our legal team can help analyze any potential evidence collected in your case to determine whether it may be used in court.
Seek guidance from our experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm by calling (215) 709-6940 to review your potential case for free.
Admissible Hearsay in an Injury Case
As previously mentioned, hearsay evidence is typically not admitted in court unless a specific exception to the hearsay rule applies. Fortunately, there are multiple exceptions that may allow for hearsay evidence to be admissible in an injury case.
First, note that some things are excluded from the definition of hearsay. For example, statements by the other party are usually admissible even if they were said out of court. These kinds of distinctions are intricate legal details our personal injury lawyers can worry about while you focus on the big picture issues.
It is important to remember that many states have their own unique rules regarding admissible hearsay. However, the following exceptions have been established at the federal level:
One exception to the hearsay rule is the admission of excited utterances. These are spontaneous statements made by a person under the influence of a startling event. In injury cases, such statements could include the immediate verbal reactions of a victim describing the event and their injuries. The lack of time for reflection allows for these utterances to be considered reliable and potentially admissible as evidence.
Present Sense Impressions
Statements that describe an event or condition while the declarant is perceiving it, or immediately thereafter, fall under the present sense impression exception. For instance, in an injury case, a statement made by a witness about the condition of the accident scene or the injured party right after the accident can be deemed admissible as a present sense impression. That is because the impression is perceived and recounted in real-time without significant opportunity for fabrication.
Medical Diagnoses and Treatment
Statements made for medical diagnoses or treatment purposes are also exceptions to the hearsay rule. In injury cases, reports containing statements by medical professionals about a patient’s condition, injuries, and treatment plan are typically admitted as evidence. This exception ensures that important medical information can be presented to the court without violating the hearsay rule.
When a witness has insufficient recollection of events to testify accurately and their memory was once fresh but has faded over time, their prior recorded statements may be admitted as evidence. This exception is relevant in injury cases when witnesses or victims have forgotten details because of the traumatic nature of certain events. Their earlier statements, such as written reports given shortly after their accidents, may be used to supplement their testimony.
Statements Against Interest
Statements made by a person that are against their own interest can also be admissible as evidence. In injury cases, this exception might apply when an individual admits fault or responsibility for their accident, even though doing so might have legal consequences. Such a statement may be deemed trustworthy because it goes against the declarant’s self-interest.
Another significant exception to the hearsay rule in injury cases is the admission of dying declarations. This exception applies when a person, who is believed to be on the brink of death, makes a statement about the circumstances leading to their impending death. Such statements are seen as inherently trustworthy because individuals are unlikely to lie when facing the end of their life. In injury cases, this exception can be relevant if a victim makes statements about the cause of their injuries before passing away.
Statements of Personal or Family History
Statements made by individuals about their personal or family history, including relationships, births, deaths, marriages, and more, can be considered admissible exceptions to the hearsay rule. In an injury case, these statements might come into play when describing the context or background leading up to an accident. For instance, a statement may be allowed in court if it details prior medical conditions that could be relevant to the injuries a victim sustained.
When records are kept in the ordinary course of a regularly conducted business activity, they can fall under the business records exception. In injury cases, this exception can include medical records, accident reports, and other documents maintained by hospitals, clinics, or insurance companies. These records are considered reliable because they are created for business purposes and are often an accurate representation of events and conditions.
Still, hearsay rules regarding business records can vary drastically from state to state. It is crucial to have competent legal representation on your side when analyzing whether certain business records will be allowed as evidence in your case.
Statements that have legal significance in themselves or are part of a verbal act can be admissible under the verbal act exception. In injury cases, this could include statements such as signing a waiver, acknowledging responsibility, or giving consent to medical procedures. These statements are admitted not for the truth of the matter asserted, but because they have legal consequences and provide context to the case at hand.
Why is Hearsay Generally Considered Inadmissible in an Injury Case?
Hearsay is generally inadmissible in legal proceedings because of concerns about its reliability and potential to introduce unreliable or fabricated evidence into a case. Since hearsay involves statements made outside of the courtroom and not subject to cross-examination, it can lack the safeguards that ensure accuracy and truthfulness in courtroom testimony.
Contact Our Personal Injury Lawyers for Help
If you were hurt as the result of another person’s negligence, get support from our experienced
at The Reiff Law Firm by calling (215) 709-6940.