Hearsay May Help or Harm Your Personal Injury Claim

Succeeding on a personal injury claim may sound straightforward enough. The victim needs to prove the defendant owed the victim a duty of care; the defendant acted negligently and thereby breached that duty of care; and that breach caused the victim compensable injuries. Yet many personal injury lawsuits that are brought in Maryland courts are aggressively defended. Therefore, the outcomes of many cases turn on each side’s ability to utilize the rules of evidence to their advantage.

One of these rules is the hearsay rule. Hearsay is an out-of-court statement made by someone other than the individual testifying. For example, if a plaintiff testifies that a witness to the accident told him that he saw the defendant run a stop sign, then an objection may be made on the basis that the witness’s statement is hearsay. Generally speaking, hearsay is inadmissible.

However, there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule. One common exception is a statement by a party opponent. Here, an individual can testify about something the plaintiff or defendant said. Additional exceptions include business records, excited utterances, statements about a present sense impression, and statements made for the purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment. Those who seek to admit hearsay into evidence need to also be aware that there can be hearsay within hearsay. For example, a plaintiff on the stand might testify that “another person told me he heard a witness say the car ran a stop sign.” Hearsay within hearsay can lead to some challenging evidentiary issues.

Depending on the circumstances, hearsay can either be extremely helpful or hurtful to one’s personal injury case. Those pursuing such a claim need to know how to handle evidentiary issues such as these, as failing to make and respond to objections may not only lead to an unfavorable outcome, but could also limit a plaintiff’s ability to raise the issue on appeal. For this reason, it is a good idea for a person seeking compensation for car accident injuries to discuss their case with an experienced trial lawyer.

Source: FindLaw, “Hearsay Evidence,” accessed on Feb. 12, 2017