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What is Hearsay and How Does it Impact my Personal Injury Case?

Most everyone who is paid any attention to the legal system it is somewhat familiar with the legal term of hearsay. Hearsay is an out-of-court statements introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted. usually that out-of-court statement is made by third-party not present in the courtroom at the time the witness is testifying. So, an example would be as follows.

Plaintiff's lawyer: "Mr. Smith, was your wife with you when you observe the accident?"

Mr. Smith: "Yes, she was standing right next."

Plaintiff's lawyer: "Mr. Smith, is she saying thing to you at the time of the accident?"

Mr. Smith: "Yes."

Plaintiff's Lawyer: "What did she say to you?"

Defendant's Lawyer: "Objection."

And, that objection would be proper. Plaintiff's lawyer is trying to get Mr. Smith to testify as to what Mrs. Smith said and out-of-court. Clearly, the jury would like to know what it was that Mrs. Smith said. Maybe she saw exactly how the accident occurred and what she said helpfully illustrates the facts. But, Mrs. Smith is not in court and so the hearsay objection is sustained and Mr. Smith may not answer that question. This is an issue for the personal injury case.

Let's start with why hearsay is excluded as evidence. The main reason is that the person who said the out-of-court statements is not there to be cross examined. There is no reliable mechanism for determining the authenticity or credibility of the statement. We don't know whether the statement was truly made and we don't know if it was made, whether the person who made the statement had actual knowledge. We have an adversarial trial court system in the United States, which means every witness gets to be cross-examined. Each lawyer has the opportunity to ask questions of every witness. To allow an out-of-court statement for the truth of the matter asserted would mean that the opposing lawyer would have no ability to confront that witness. There are, however, exceptions to the hearsay rule And they have all evolved on the basis of being credible. That is, because of some other fact or circumstance, the out-of-court statement is generally considered reliable.

The main reason hearsay comes up is the witnesses were not properly identified and spoken with soon enough after the accident occurred. The injured party may have lost track of who the witnesses are or you may simply just have a very difficult time finding witnesses. Another common issue is that too much time has passed since the car accident and the witnesses simply do not have a good recollection of the facts. So, instead of properly bringing the witness in to testify as to what he or she observed at the accident scene, another witness, who observes the out-of-court statement, attempts to bring it into his or her own testimony. The results is an objection in the inadmissibility of that evidence. If you have been injured due to another's negligence, I highly recommend you retain a competent Massachusetts personal injury lawyer as soon as reasonably possible after the accident so that he or she may identify and speak with the witnesses before too much time has passed.

Categories: Personal Injury, evidence

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