“Evidence” means any tangible item, including written material and spoken testimony, that renders an asserted fact more or less likely to be true. Texas courts rely on the Texas Rules of Evidence to determine which evidence is admissible in court and which is not.
The Elements of a Typical Personal Injury Claim: What You Have To Prove To Win
Most personal injury claims are based on negligence, a legal term that means something like carelessness. You need to prove the following four elements to win a negligence claim:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care. For example, in a car accident claim, this probably means the duty to drive safely. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, it might mean the duty to perform an appendectomy in a competent manner.
- The defendant breached their duty of care. The defendant can breach their duty of care through an improper act, such as running a red light or an improper failure to act.
- You suffered an injury. You must prove every dime of your injury’s value.
- The defendant’s breach of duty was a foreseeable and factual cause of your injury.
Product liability, wrongful death, and workers’ comp claims are among the types of claims that use legal elements different from the ones listed above. No matter what the elements of your claim, however, you must prove each of them by the “preponderance of the evidence” standard.
The “Preponderance of the Evidence” Standard
A personal injury lawsuit is not a criminal trial. Instead of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal trials, personal injury lawsuits apply the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. To win using the preponderance of the evidence standard, you only need to prove that your claim is slightly more likely than not (51%) to be true.
Evidence in Personal Injury Cases
Following are some examples of evidence that is frequently used in personal injury cases:
- Eyewitness testimony. For example, the witness might testify that a defendant driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident.
- Expert witness testimony: An expert witness might reconstruct an accident, estimate your lost earnings, determine that a consumer product contained a manufacturing defect, or determine whether a doctor breached their duty of care, to name a few examples.
- Depositions: Depositions contain out-of-court, under-oath testimony from eyewitnesses or expert witnesses. You can use deposition testimony to contradict the in-court testimony of a witness, thereby discrediting them.
- An accident report as prepared by a police officer. You cannot use this in court—you have to call the officer as a witness to elicit the information. Nevertheless, accident reports are useful in settlement negotiations.
- A physician’s report on the severity of your injuries.
- Your medical records and bills, to determine your medical expenses.
- Your earnings records, to calculate your lost earnings.
- CCTV footage of the accident, if available.
- Photographs of your injuries, property damage, and the accident scene.
An exhaustive list of possible evidence would be too long to include here.
Limitations on the Use of Evidence
You cannot submit certain types of evidence at trial. Most of these evidentiary restrictions are based on centuries of experience. The most prominent evidentiary restrictions involve relevance, prejudice, subsequent remedial measures, and hearsay.
You cannot submit evidence that is not relevant to your claim. Sometimes the relevance of a particular item of evidence is clear, and sometimes it is in dispute. In a sexual assault claim, for example, evidence that the victim was sexually promiscuous is irrelevant, even though a few decades ago, the legal system considered it relevant.
Evidence for Which the Prejudicial Effect Is Greater Than the Probative Value
“Probative value” is a measure of the relevance of a particular item of evidence. For example, if it is particularly relevant, it has a high probative value. “Prejudicial effect” means the extent to which the evidence might unfairly bias a judge or jury.
The classic example is gruesome photos of a murder scene in a wrongful death lawsuit. These photos might offer little new information, but they might prejudice a jury against a faultless defendant. If the prejudicial effect exceeds the probative value of the item, the judge will refuse to admit it.
Evidence of Subsequent Remedial Measures
You cannot introduce evidence that the defendant repaired a dangerous condition to prove that it was dangerous in the first place. The reason for this rule is that the law should not punish people for repairing dangerous conditions.
The Hearsay Rule
Hearsay is an out-of-court statement designed to prove the truth of its own assertion. For example, a statement in a police report that “The defendant stated that the light was green at the time of the accident” cannot be used to prove that the light was green.
Instead, you would need to subpoena the police officer and ask them in court whether the light was green. The same statement might also be used to prove that the defendant thought the light was green.
The hearsay rule is subject to nearly two dozen exceptions. Your lawyer should be familiar with all of them.
An Experienced Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyer Will Know the Texas Rules of Evidence By Heart
The Texas Rules of Evidence are complex, intricate, and difficult to navigate, even for some lawyers. However, an experienced Fort Worth personal injury lawyer should know them inside and out, and they should be able to exploit this knowledge to help you win your claim. Call (817) 294-1900 today to schedule a free initial consultation at Anderson Injury Lawyers.