When lawyers talk about the rules of evidence, they are referring to the
body of rules that regulates what information can be let in during a trial
and what information will be excluded. The rules of evidence are key to
every personal injury case from the very beginning of that case.
In fact, before a personal injury case can be filed, negotiated, or taken
to trial, the lawyers from both sides must evaluate the applicability
of all the potential evidence. For example, if a the victim in a personal
injury case has damaging evidence against the tortfeasor in a case, but
it is all hearsay, the victim’s attorney will have to come up with
an exception to the general rule that hearsay should be excluded.
Confusing, Unfair, and Prejudicial Evidence
The first question that is asked about all evidence is whether it is relevant.
The bar for what makes evidence relevant or not is very low. As long as
the evidence has some tendency to prove or disprove some disputed fact
it is relevant. To illustrate this point the law often uses the maxim
that a brick does not make a wall. Meaning that while one piece of evidence
does not make an entire case, enough pieces eventually will.
Relevance is not the final determining factor in whether evidence will
be admitted in a case. There are dozens of remaining rules that regulate
the admission of evidence. One of those is the rule against evidence that
is unfairly prejudicial or confusing. This rule can be found in
Florida Statutes 90.403.
Some might say that such a rule does not make sense, as the point of bringing
a case is to prove that the defendant is the wrongdoer through primarily
prejudicial evidence. While that is true, there are some kinds of evidence
that if presented to jury would confuse them to the real facts of the
case and lead them to a conclusion based on how the evidence made them feel.
Florida Court of Appeals Reverses Unfair Prejudicial Ruling
A recently decided case by the District Court of Appeals, Third District gives a good example of the unfairly prejudicial rule. In that case the
victim of the accident brought a suit against a driver after they were
in an accident on the highway. The claimant complained of sustaining injuries
and sought to recover from the defendant to be compensated.
At trial, the defendant wanted to present evidence to the jury of a golfing
trip the plaintiff had after their accident. According to the defendant,
he could present evidence that some time after the accident the victim
played in a golf tournament where he got into a golf cart accident and
drunken brawl that caused his injuries.
After considering whether to let the evidence in, the trial court decided
to exclude it because the facts were too unfair and prejudicial to the
victim. If the jury heard that he was in a drunken brawl they would be
less likely to make an award based on that fact, whether he actually sustained
injuries as a result or no. But the court of appeals reversed that decision.
According to their opinion, this was not the type of evidence that should
be excluded because the jury could conclude that injuries were a result
of the brawl and not the original car accident.
Every personal injury case has numerous facts that must be evaluated prior
to filing a claim. That is why it is so important to have a team of professionals
with experience in this area of the law evaluating your case and determining
what evidence will be admissible and what not. At
The Pittman Firm, we have the experience that your case deserves. If you have been injured
in an accident,contact us.
See related blog posts:
Florida Supreme Court Rules: Product Liability for Manufacturers;
What It Means to Be in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum®.