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State of Mind or Intent in a Personal Injury Case

As we've covered in previous blog posts, out-of-court statements offered to prove the matter asserted in those statements are considered hearsay and are inadmissible. However, there are several exceptions to the hearsay rule and, accordingly, there are reasons that hearsay statements may be considered more reliable and allowed into evidence. The exception we will cover today applies to Massachusetts personal injury cases as well as all other litigations in Massachusetts. Today we will cover the exception of declarations of state of mind or intent.

There is a case from 1974 out of the SJC called Com. v. Bush Which states that, because in temper state of mind are never susceptible of direct proof, out-of-court statements by person as to his or her intent or state of mind may be admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule when those issues are before the court. The translation of that into understandable terms is as follows. Someone's state of mind or intent are usually not out-of-court statements. They are more a kin to internal thoughts.

However, sometimes these thoughts are verbalized verbatim. This tends to happen in declarations of someone state of mind or a declaration of their intention. Now, this type of exception is typically relevant to criminal cases. It is in criminal cases that we most commonly see the element of intent or state of mind is relevant issues before the court. For instance, most crimes require the element of intent. That is, that deep used must be proved to have intended to commit the crime. It is not the case for every crime, but it is the case for many. The same goes for state of mind. Think of an individual who asserts a self-defense defense. Certainly that person's state of mind is relevance, as is any declaration thereof.

Well, in personal injury cases state of mind and intent can be relevant too. We may be faced in a personal injury case with an unsettled issue of liability. The defendant may be operating under the theory that the personal injury victim in fact intended to become injured the purpose of asserting a claim. Perhaps the victim in that case verbalized such an intention just before the injury occurred. Let's add some detail.

Let's say we have two individual standing on side of a busy road. There are cars parked on both sides of the road and the two individuals are standing between two parked cars in a manner so that oncoming traffic cannot see either one of them. There is no conspiracy between these two individuals. One individual has no idea that the other is about to sustain an injury. The party who is about to sustain an injury is a clear sense that his injury is imminent. As traffic moves swiftly by the two individuals, one of the individuals thinks to himself "This traffic is moving far too fast to cross. We will have to wait a minute for there to be a break in the traffic."

The other individual, the one who is about to sustain an injury, is thinking differently. He has planned out what is about to occur. He plans to step into traffic and manner so that the oncoming vehicles do not see him to ensure he will sustain an injury from which he expects to recover an insurance claim. Seeing a commercial vehicle approaching, that individual steps into traffic, directly in front of the oncoming commercial vehicle, in a manner so that the vehicle hits his leg, causing a car accident and personal injuries. But, just before stepping into traffic that individual looks to the other individual and said "This looks like a good one. Call my girlfriend and tell her where they bring me."

Now, these two sentences can really be evaluated in more than one way in this personal injury case. The first sentence, "This looks like a good one." evidences that individual's state of mind just before stepping in front of the vehicle. The evidence really is that the individual intended to select a vehicle to step before that he belts would result in a preferential recovery. That is more purely of the two sentences, the one that would best fit into the narrow exception of state of mind. The second sentence, "call my girlfriend and tell her where they bring me" Could also be reasonably argued to fall with an exception, but you could likely get it in as not hearsay because the attorney presenting this evidence would not necessarily be seeking it as proof of the matter asserted in sentence. Rather, that lawyer would be using this sentence as further evidence of the victim state of mind and intent just prior to the accident.

Understanding the Massachusetts rules of evidence can clearly be critical in a personal injury matter. although people sometimes represent themselves in these matters, the complexity presented typically makes it not cost effective and, therefore not the best strategy. If you'd like to consult with a Boston personal injury lawyer for free regarding your personal injury case, call our office today.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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