Hearsay and Your Personal Injury Case

In personal injury cases, Florida statutes follow the federal law that prohibits the use of hearsay in court, with notable exceptions. These exceptions make it possible to present as evidence what would otherwise be considered hearsay. An experienced personal injury attorney will understand the nuances of these exceptions and will know how to utilize them to help you receive the compensation you deserve. 

Hearsay defined

We’ve heard the saying “He said, she said” or “It’s his word against hers.” This is the situation the courts seek to avoid by banning hearsay. According to Florida Statute 90.801(1b), “‘Hearsay’ is a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” The following section (1c) clarifies a statement as an oral or written assertion or even non-verbal conduct if it is intended by the person as an assertion (an example would be a nod or shake of the head).

Section 90.801(2) clarifies that “A statement is not hearsay if the declarant testifies at the trial or hearing and is subject to cross-examination concerning the statement.” 

So in essence, hearsay is anything that is said or written outside of the court and the person saying or writing the information has not been able to be cross-examined. Under this definition, it would seem as if very little would be admissible. Because of this, the law defines notable exceptions to this rule.

Exceptions to the hearsay rule

Some of the exclusions are a bit surprising, while others make sense. For instance, public records and reports seem like standard evidence in a trial, but they are technically hearsay. It is not generally possible to cross-examine the creator of a report, such as a birth certificate, public records, maintenance log, or something written by a deceased person. Medical records are also technically hearsay but are admissible, though it is often helpful to your case to have your doctor or another medical expert testify on your behalf.

Interestingly, police reports are not admissible because it is expected that the police officer testify. However, police reports are submitted to insurance companies as evidence.

More surprising hearsay that is admissible include:

  • Reputation, such as of individuals, boundaries, customs, or company that is involved in litigation.
  • Excited utterance, such as that related to a startling event or condition made while under the stress of the moment. For example, if someone jumps out of a car and says, “I didn’t see you! I’m so sorry!” that is admissible as an excited utterance.
  • Present sense impression, which may be a statement describing or explaining an event or condition while or immediately after the declarant perceived it. That might be a witness saying, “Wow, that car is going really fast” right before the accident occurs.
  • Then-existing mental, emotional, or physical condition, or state of mind (motive, intent, plan) but not a statement of memory to prove the fact that is being remembered
  • Statements made by child victims outside the court, under certain circumstances that the judge may determine, in order to safeguard the child’s physical and emotional well-being
  • Statements made by elderly or disabled adults outside the court, under certain circumstances that the judge may determine, alleging abuse, exploitation, or other criminal activity, again for the protection of the individuals 

It is evident from these exceptions that there is a great deal of gray area and judgment that must be made in the use of these exclusions to the hearsay rule. As an experienced personal injury attorney working with clients throughout Florida, I can recognize the defendant’s use of hearsay and immediately object to prevent its use in court. At the same time, I dive deeply into your case to discover opportunities to use the exceptions to prove negligence by the defendant in order to provide you with the compensation you deserve. Contact me 24/7 from anywhere in Florida at (954) 448-7288 for a free consultation to see how I can help you.

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