The Hearsay Rule

Personal Injury Lawyer

We have all seen images in television and movies of lawyers objecting to something happening in court. Indeed, we all recognize that a major part of any trial is determining what evidence may or may not be offered against a defendant, with each attorney arguing vigorously for their position. These procedural arguments are quite common in accident cases, including those stemming from motor vehicle accidents, construction accidents, and similar incidents.

Objections During a Trial

Our modern-day justice system seeks to create trials that are fair for the defendant. One way that our justice systems does this is by limiting the types of evidence that may be admitted by either party. During a trial, attorneys may object to evidence being offered, whether it is evidence offered by opposing counsel, by witnesses on the witness stand, or by others. The judge will determine whether the evidence is admissible according to the laws of the state and will overrule or sustain the objection accordingly. One common type of objection is that evidence offered by a party constitutes hearsay.

Hearsay rules are quite complex. In general, however, hearsay refers to testimony by a witness on some information that he does not know personally, but which was related to him by a third party or what he heard others say. In order to constitute hearsay, the evidence must (1) include an out-of-court statement that is (2) offered for the truth of the statement. For example, a statement by a witness, such as, “Bill told me that he saw the car run the red light,” may be considered hearsay because it is a statement overheard by the witness and not what the witness personally saw.

The rationale for the hearsay rule is that defendants generally ought to have a chance to confront and examine evidence offered against them. Thus, verbal or written statements offered to prove the truth of matters asserted should be subject to cross-examination in court. The problem with the statement, “Bill told me that he saw the car run the red light,” is that it is not Bill on the witness stand but someone else, so the defendant does not have an opportunity to cross-examine Bill or further challenge whether Bill’s statement is true.

Generally, if a statement (whether verbal or written) constitutes hearsay, the judge will not admit the statement for evidence, provided the attorney has made a timely objection. However, depending on the specifics of the case, there may be a number of exceptions to this general rule.

Contact an Accident Lawyer

In many cases, if your lawyer does not object to hearsay evidence, that evidence will be admitted and used against you in your trial. It is critical that you have an attorney that possesses a thorough understanding of what types of evidence constitute hearsay.

If you are hurt in an accident, it is critical to contact a skilled accident lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer from The Lawfirm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C. Experienced attorneys are here to help. Their skilled staff can work with you to negotiate a settlement or take a matter all the way to trial, if necessary, to secure fair compensation to help in your recovery.