When people are held responsible for their actions, they are more likely to act in a safe and responsible manner. This maxim is the theory behind the American tort system, which gives us personal injury lawsuits. Our personal injury courts and their counterparts ensure that fault is determined, fair compensation is paid to accident victims, and all parties — including those found to be at fault — are treated fairly.
Inevitably, however, many people who cause accidents are reluctant to take responsibility for them. The reasons vary. Some people who cause accidents are unable or unwilling to accept that their conduct is unsafe. For example, according to a 2011 study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 68% of young drivers 18 to 20 reported that they were willing to answer incoming phone calls while driving. This statistic is frightening, given the known danger of distracted driving. In other circumstances, people who know they were at fault refuse to accept responsibility for selfish reasons, such as for fear that their own insurance rates will go up. Of course, there are also situations where there is a legitimate dispute as to who caused an accident. Whenever a personal injury claim is disputed, the finders of fact must rely on the available evidence.
Whether you were injured in an automobile collision, a slip and fall incident, an animal attack, or an act of medical malpractice, the burden is on you to prove your case. At-fault parties and their insurance companies rarely pay fair and adequate compensation willingly. Proving your case consists of proving fault, proving what harm was caused by the incident (causation), and proving the nature and extent of your harm.
If your injury claim is submitted to an insurance company, that company’s employee adjusters will look at the evidence before them to determine fault, causation, and harm. Of course, the employee adjusters will view the evidence with an eye towards reducing the value of the claim to save company money. If the claim cannot resolve by way of settlement, then the dispute will be handled in the court system and the evidence will be submitted to a finder of fact. In most cases, the finder of fact is the jury.
The rule of law regarding evidence that almost every judge reads to the jury before a personal injury or wrongful death trial is as follows (CACI Jury Instruction No. 106):
You must decide what the facts are in this case only from the evidence you see or hear during the trial. Sworn testimony, documents, or anything else may be admitted into evidence. You may not consider as evidence anything that you see or hear when court is not in session, even something done or said by one of the parties, attorneys, or witnesses.
What the attorneys say during the trial is not evidence. In their opening statements and closing arguments, the attorneys will talk to you about the law and the evidence. What the lawyers say may help you understand the law and the evidence, but their statements and arguments are not evidence.
The attorneys' questions are not evidence. Only the witnesses' answers are evidence. You should not think that something is true just because an attorney's question suggests that it is true. However, the attorneys for both sides can agree that certain facts are true. This agreement is called a "stipulation." No other proof is needed and you must accept those facts as true in this trial.
Each side has the right to object to evidence offered by the other side. If I do not agree with the objection, I will say it is overruled. If I overrule an objection, the witness will answer and you may consider the evidence. If I agree with the objection, I will say it is sustained. If I sustain an objection, you must ignore the question. If the witness did not answer, you must not guess what he or she might have said or why I sustained the objection. If the witness has already answered, you must ignore the answer.
An attorney may make a motion to strike testimony that you have heard. If I grant the motion, you must totally disregard that testimony. You must treat it as though it did not exist.
The most common sources of evidence in personal injury cases are sworn witness testimony and authenticated documents. Other common sources of evidence include debris from the scene of a car crash or a medical device, such as a prosthetic limb. The CA Evidence Code consists of rules to ensure the reliability of the evidence. If a piece of evidence is not allowed, or “admissible” under the Code, the evidence will not be considered by the jury. For example, a statement that a witness heard outside of court may be an inadmissible hearsay statement. In order to increase the chances of proving your case, you should hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to help gather all of the evidence that will be admissible to show the truth regarding fault, causation, and harm.
If you suffered an injury or loss from an auto accident, slip and fall, dog bite, or medical neglect, schedule a free consultation with a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer who has experience winning trials. A Los Angeles Trial Lawyer knows how to present the evidence properly to get the fair compensation that you deserve, either by settlement or trial judgment.