Hearsay can be any statement that is not made in court, but presented in the court for proving the truthfulness of the information in the statement. It can be oral testimony or written documents. The main characteristic of hearsay is the gathering of information from one person to another, where the first person does not have direct experience of the object, condition, or event mentioned in the information. Due to the nature of hearsay, this type of evidence is not permitted in personal injury cases.
For instance, John and Robert’s cars are involved in an accident that has injured John. At the trial, John’s lawyer calls Peter as a witness, who testifies that Robert’s friend told him that Robert was late for an appointment at the time of accident. In this instance, Peter’s statement can be considered hearsay, because Peter did not have any direct knowledge of Robert being late for an appointment. However, it will not be hearsay if Peter’s statement is not being used for proving that Robert was running late.
Even though hearsay evidence is generally not admissible in personal injury cases, there are certain exceptions. There are about thirty exceptions to hearsay rule, and most common ones are:
- Impressions: The impression that the declarant experienced while making the statement, for instance, “Robert appears angry”.
- Utterances in an Excited State: These are statements made by the witness while being in an excited or stressful state during a startling event.
- Declarations to Prove State of Mind: Statements made by the declarant can be used to prove the person’s state of mind at the time it was uttered. For instance, when Robert shouts out “I am Einstein”, it can be used to prove Robert’s unstable mental condition.
Two Barriers to Pass
When a person testifying makes a hearsay statement and the opposing lawyer does not object to it then it may be admissible, unless the judge rejects it.