California uses an at-fault system for handling injury compensation. Any injury compensation you seek after an accident must come from the at-fault party. You can do this through an insurance claim or a lawsuit.
Whether you file an insurance claim or a lawsuit, you need evidence to support your claim. This evidence will need to support the legal grounds for your claim and the amount of money you claim as damages.
Here are some of the types of evidence that can help you prove your personal injury claim.
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Evidence includes anything that you present to prove the existence or non-existence of a fact. Evidence can take many forms, including:
Testimony includes any oral or written statements presented under oath in court or during a deposition. Testimony is usually subject to cross-examination.
Testimony that is not presented under oath and was not subject to cross-examination will have less credibility. Most judges will not admit informal testimony. However, claim adjusters are not bound by California’s Evidence Code and may consider these types of witness statements.
Writings include records like:
- Medical records
- Accident reports
- Wage statements
These writings usually constitute hearsay. But they can get admitted into evidence under various exceptions to hearsay.
Writings can also include records that are not written. For example, courts and claim adjusters treat videos, audio recordings, and photographs as writings.
Material objects include physical items. A defective safety harness, a broken light, or even a rock that hit your car can constitute evidence. The material object may be easier to get admitted into evidence than a video or photo of the object because videos and photos can misrepresent the object.
A demonstration includes you or someone else physically demonstrating something. You could show how you fell during a slip and fall accident or how your helmeted head hit the ground after a motorcycle accident.
Your body can also constitute evidence as a form of demonstration. A lawyer could ask you to show your injuries, your scars, or the range of your arm movement.
Evidence vs. Admissible Evidence
Evidence falls into two categories with regard to whether it may be used in court:
Admissible evidence includes evidence that you can introduce in court. Admissible evidence must be:
- Not prejudicial
- Not inadmissible under the rules
Relevant evidence relates to an issue in the case. For example, you can introduce evidence that one driver received a citation after a car accident. This evidence is relevant because it relates to what happened and who caused the accident.
A judge can also exclude prejudicial evidence. Prejudicial evidence tends to bias the jury against one party without providing any information about the facts in the case.
In addition to evidence that gets excluded for being irrelevant or prejudicial, the rules specifically exclude some types of evidence from admission. Some examples include:
Hearsay happens when you seek to admit an out-of-court statement to prove the truth of the matter in the statement.
Suppose that you said, “I’m not hurt,” after your car accident. When you sue for your injuries, the at-fault driver might try to introduce your statement to prove you were not hurt. This statement constitutes hearsay, and a judge can exclude it unless it falls into a hearsay exception.
A judge cannot admit into evidence any statements and conduct during settlement negotiations. For example, suppose the insurance adjuster says during settlement negotiations that your head injury was caused by the accident, but your back injury was not. If you cannot settle the case and file a lawsuit, you cannot use that statement to prove the insurer admitted that the accident caused your head injury.
Examples of Evidence for Your Injury Case
In your case, you will have two primary issues that require evidentiary support:
You must prove the other party bears liability for your accident. This usually means that the other party acted negligently and thereby caused your injuries.
You can usually show negligence through witness testimony from those who saw the accident. Witnesses will include you, the other driver, passengers, and bystanders. You may also show negligence using documentary evidence, such as police accident reports and traffic camera video.
You may also need the assistance of an expert witness. An expert witness can provide opinion testimony based on training, experience, or education. Your lawyer might hire an accident reconstruction expert to testify about how the accident happened. Or you might even seek to qualify the police officers who investigated your accident as experts who could testify about the cause of the accident.
You need to prove the value of your losses. Evidence of your losses can include documentary evidence like copies of medical bills, wage statements, repair estimates, and pay stubs.
It can also include testimony from you and those close to you. Non-economic damages include how your injuries affect your quality of life. You can testify about the pain, mental anguish, lost sleep, and inability to perform tasks brought on by your injuries.
The Role of the Injury Lawyer
An injury lawyer will investigate your accident and gather the evidence needed to support your case. The lawyer might need help from you, your doctors, experts, and even a private investigator to get the evidence to prove your claim and your losses.
But if you choose the right lawyer for your case, they will know how to do this in a way that preserves the admissibility of the evidence. To learn what evidence can help you prove your personal injury case, contact Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at (619) 777-5555.