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"Objection, Hearsay!": What Does It Mean and How It Relates to Your Charlottesville Personal Injury Case

In a Virginia personal injury case or wrongful death case, hearsay can be a defining factor in the court room. It is a straight forward concept with many complex exceptions. Hearsay is evidence in court that is a statement made out of court being offered for the truth of the matter asserted. The statement rests upon the credibility of the person who made the out-of-court statement. Hearsay evidence is not admissible because there is no way for the opposing party to cross-examine the person who made the statement out of court.

While the general rule is that hearsay is not admissible, there are many exceptions to that rule. Some examples are:

  • Admission about a party opponentis a statement by the defendant or plaintiff against their own interest.
  • Present sense impressionis a spontaneous excited statement provoked by a startling event, describing that event contemporaneously.
  • Existing mental, emotional and physical condition pertains to a statement of the declarant’s then existing state. The declarant’s condition may grant insight into the case, revealing intent, motive, pain or bodily health.
  • Business recordsare not considered hearsay if they are records kept in the ordinary course of regularly conducted business activity and there is a regular practice to keep such records.
  • Public records and reports, such as police reports, and records of vital statistics, such as birth or marriage certificates, are also admissible in court.

If the declarant is unavailable, there are some other exceptions to the hearsay rule and some statements may be admissible. Examples of these exceptions are:

  • A former testimony that was given under eyes at a hearing or deposition is admissible in court.
  • A statement made under the impression that death was imminent and therefore conditions regarding their life were non-essential is admissible.
  • A statement against interest is a statement made by a declarant against their own interest and possibly subjecting themselves to criminal liability. If the information is proven reliable, it is admissible.

While the general rule is that hearsay is not admissible, there are many, many exceptions and additions to those listed above. Many cases hinge upon whether a statement is admissible to be heard by the jury.

This is just a quick overview of the hearsay rule. It is certainly not all-encompassing. In law school, a significant amount of time and attention is spent making future lawyers understand the importance and significance of the hearsay rule as it is complex and may one day be vital to a case.

So, the next time you're watching reruns of Law & Order and the prosecutor says “Objection, hearsay!”, you will have a better understanding of what that means.

To read more about Hearsay, click here!

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