In every type of case, a party must prove his or her claim to a certain standard. In civil cases the injured party must prove the elements of a claim by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the party seeking relief must show that it is more likely than not that each element of the claim is met.
In a personal injury case, the plaintiff must show there was a duty owed, a breach of the duty, causation, and damages. In order to prove each element of a claim, evidence is required. There are two types of evidence: direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.
Direct evidence is any evidence that tends to prove the occurrence or nonoccurrence of a particular fact. Direct evidence is the best type of evidence that can be presented to a judge or jury. Direct evidence is so powerful because, if believed, it automatically resolves the issue in question.
Circumstantial evidence is evidence that does not alone prove a fact or a set of facts. Instead, circumstantial evidence requires a judge or jury to make an inference based on the evidence presented. Circumstantial evidence is often a large portion of the evidence presented in personal injury cases.
Examples of Common Types of Direct and Circumstantial Evidence
Many types of evidence presented in personal injury cases can either be direct or circumstantial depending on the information presented. Some common forms of evidence that may serve dual purposes include:
- Medical Records: Medical Records are a major part of any personal injury action and serve as direct evidence in most circumstances. Medical records are introduced by plaintiffs and defendants equally. Plaintiffs typically introduce medical records as evidence which details the injuries sustained, treatment plan, and to establish ongoing treatment. Medical records may include notes regarding the patient’s description of the pain experienced, observations made by a doctor or physician, and a description of the injury. Defendants in personal injury actions typically present much more medical records, particularly in cases in which a victim has an extensive medical history. In most cases, a defendant introduces medical records in an attempt to show that the injuries asserted were present prior to the accident presented before the court.
- Lay Witness Testimony: A lay witness is any individual who testifies in a personal injury case. These types of witnesses do not have expertise on any particular subject matter. Instead, lay witnesses typically testify about information stemming from their personal knowledge. The personal knowledge of a lay witness typically consists of information that can be obtained using the five senses: things that were seen, smelled, tasted, touched, or heard. In personal injury cases, lay witnesses are usually individuals who witnessed the accident or can testify regarding the dangerous condition that existed causing the injury.
- Expert Witness Testimony: An expert witness is a witness who has specialized knowledge and experience on a particular issue. Expert witnesses may qualify based on education or experience acquired through work in a particular field. Expert witnesses are invaluable as they provide clarification to judges and jurors that may ultimately change the result of a case. Expert witnesses can serve multiple purposes. They can provide scientific evidence regarding a particular issue or may offer an opinion based on a particular set of facts presented to them. In addition, expert witnesses provide clarification on issues that may be too complex for a layperson to understand without the help of a witness.
- Photographs: Photographic evidence may also be direct or circumstantial. In many cases photographs are circumstantial in that they typically do not provide a direct account. Instead photographs are typically used to give a more accurate depiction of damages. Many times, jurors believe that individuals tend to exaggerate the extent of the damages claimed. Although witnesses tend to explain the damages by describing it through testimony, photographs are one of the best ways to provide an account of your story. In many personal injury cases, seeing is believing. Photographic evidence allows jurors to see the extent of the damage and form a belief as to how the encounter occurred.
The Importance of Gathering Evidence Immediately
Evidence has the ability to make or break a case. That is why it is beneficial to begin gathering evidence for your case as soon as the injury occurs. Even if evidence pertaining to your case is not gathered immediately after a case, it is important to begin gathering evidence as soon as the realization occurs. Waiting until the time you initiate a court action can be detrimental to your case. This is because personal injury cases do not carry specific timeframes in which the case will be completed. Waiting until the time of a personal injury action will likely result in a finding that some evidence was lost, misplaced, or destroyed.
About The Author:
Joshua Glotzer is a personal injury attorney founder of Joshua W. Glotzer, APC, located in Los Angeles, CA. For the past 20 years, he has successfully helped injury victims recover the compensation they deserve. He handles all personal injury matters including car accidents , motorcycle accidents, dog bites, wrongful death claims, truck accidents, and many more.