If you are considering taking legal action, whether in the aftermath of a personal injury or the unexpected loss of a loved one, you need to know not only the law, but also the rules of evidence. These rules must be abided by all parties to a lawsuit, even when they are proceeding without an attorney. Depending on one's ability to use these rules, they can either protect themselves and their evidence, or be taken advantage of by more knowledgeable attorneys.
This often occurs in instances where hearsay becomes an issue. Hearsay is a statement that was made out of court, but is testified about in court by someone other than the individual who made the out of court statement. Generally speaking, hearsay is disallowed from being used at trial. Therefore, a police officer cannot testify about what a witness to a fatal accident said.
However, there are many exceptions to the general hearsay rule. For example, statements that are made spontaneously during a time of stress may be considered an excited utterance and thus an exception to the hearsay rule. Also statements about an individual's then-existing mental or physical state may be allowed at trial even though they are technically hearsay. Certain public and business records, as well as a declarant's present sense impression are also exceptions to the hearsay rule.
It is important to know that hearsay will only be disallowed when it is objected to by an opposing party. This means that those who are unfamiliar with the rule may have the other side admit hearsay against them without them knowing that they could bar it if they would simply raise the objection. Also, an exception to hearsay will only be allowed if an appropriate response is given when a hearsay objection is raised.
This means that many people in Indiana turn to experienced attorneys when they are facing litigation. An experienced attorney should know the rules of evidence and how to use them to one's advantage. Hopefully, this knowledge will increase the likelihood of success on a wrongful death or personal injury claim, thereby leading to the recovery of compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and, in the worst cases, funeral costs.
Source: FindLaw, "Hearsay Evidence," accessed on April 23, 2017