Evidence is anything that can be seen or heard that makes it more or less likely that a claimed fact is true. This includes written materials and verbal testimony. The Florida Evidence Code is used by Florida courts to establish what evidence is and is not admissible in court.
What You Must Prove To Win a Typical Personal Injury Claim
Negligence (roughly, “carelessness”) is the basis of the majority of personal injury cases. To succeed in a negligence claim, you must demonstrate the four criteria listed below:
- You owed the defendant a duty of care. For instance, this often refers to the responsibility to drive safely in a vehicle accident lawsuit. In a medical malpractice claim, it might refer to the responsibility to skillfully execute an appendectomy.
- The accused violated their duty of care. Through an improper action, such as running a red light, or an improper act or omission, the defendant may have violated their duty of care.
- You suffered an injury. You must substantiate the cost of every dollar you claim for your injury.
- The defendant’s breach of duty caused your injury, and your injury was a foreseeable cause of this injury.
Other legal aspects beyond those mentioned above are used in claims involving product liability, wrongful death, and workers’ compensation. Whatever the components of your claim, however, you must prove each one using the “preponderance of the evidence” test.
The “Preponderance of the Evidence” Standard
An injury lawsuit is not the same as a criminal trial. In contrast to criminal trials, which utilize the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, personal injury cases use the “preponderance of the evidence” test. You only need to demonstrate that your assertion has a 51% chance of being true in order to pass the “preponderance of the evidence” test.
Evidence in Personal Injury Cases
Here are a few examples of evidence that frequently appear in lawsuits involving personal injury:
- Eyewitness accounts.
- Testimony from an expert witness: An expert witness might assess your lost wages, reconstruct an accident, find a manufacturing flaw in a consumer product, or decide whether a doctor violated their duty of care.
- Deposition testimony: Eyewitness or expert witness depositions include testimony given outside of court but under oath. You can discredit a witness by contradicting their testimony in court via deposition testimony.
- A police officer’s report of an accident. This report cannot be used in court. Instead, the information must be obtained by calling the officer as a witness. Nevertheless, accident reports are helpful during compensation discussions.
- A medical opinion on the seriousness of your wounds.
- Your medical history and bills in order to calculate your medical costs.
- Your earnings data to determine the amount of lost income.
- CCTV footage of the incident.
- Photos of the accident scene, your injuries, and any property damage.
A complete list of possible evidence would run for several pages, so this list is far from exhaustive.
Certain forms of evidence are not admissible during a trial. The majority of these evidentiary limitations are the result of centuries of practice. The most significant evidentiary limitations include hearsay, relevance, prejudice, and subsequent remedial measures.
Evidence that is not pertinent to your claim cannot be submitted. Sometimes, of course, you can argue whether a certain piece of evidence is relevant. Evidence showing the victim was sexually promiscuous, for instance, is irrelevant in a sexual assault claim, despite the fact that the judicial system once regarded it as important.
Evidence in Which the Probative Value Exceeds the Prejudicial Effect
A measure of the significance of a specific piece of evidence is called its “probative value.” For instance, it has a high probative value if it is extremely relevant. “Prejudicial effect” means the degree to which the evidence can unjustly affect a judge or jury.
The standard illustration is graphic images of a crime scene in a wrongful death claim. These images might not provide much new information, yet they could sway a jury against a defendant who is innocent. The judge should not admit an item if the adverse effect outweighs its probative value.
Evidence of Subsequent Remedial Measures
You cannot prove that a condition was harmful in the first place by proving that the defendant fixed it. This provision is in place because the law considers it unhelpful to penalize people for fixing hazardous conditions.
A statement made outside of court to support another person’s argument is hearsay. For instance, it is impossible to prove that a traffic light was green based on a police report that states, “The defendant stated that the light was green at the time of the car accident.”
As an alternative, you would need to compel the policeman to testify in court and confirm whether the light was green. You could use hearsay to prove that the defendant believed that the light was green (whether or not it was actually green).
There are roughly two dozen exceptions to the hearsay rule. Your lawyer should know all of them.
Seek Out a Seasoned Tampa Personal Injury Attorney
Even some lawyers find the Florida Evidence Code dense, complicated, and challenging. A skilled Tampa personal injury attorney ought to be completely familiar with them and able to use that familiarity to your advantage. What’s more, under a contingency fee arrangement, you pay nothing in legal fees unless your lawyer wins or settles your case.