Hearsay Evidence Cannot Be Introduced in Arizona Personal Injury Litigation
Motor vehicle accidents (like many other accident scenarios) are frequently decided on the basis of evidentiary issues. The value of effectively navigating evidentiary conflicts cannot be understated — generally speaking, skilled litigators understand the value of favorably resolving evidentiary conflicts. Doing so will almost certainly pay dividends further downstream in the litigation process.
Perhaps the most commonly encountered evidentiary issue is that of hearsay evidence admission. In Arizona, the success of your motor vehicle accident and car accident claims can turn on the application of the hearsay evidence rule, so it’s worth considering the rule and its fundamental limitations.
Let’s take a look.
Arizona Law Prohibits the Admission of Hearsay Evidence
According to the Arizona Rules of Evidence section 801, hearsay evidence is defined as a statement that:
- the declarant makes outside of the current trial or hearing, and
- is offered into evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.
If the declarant testifies about a prior statement and is subject to cross-examination, or if a statement is offered into evidence against an opposing party, then — assuming that certain additional requirements are met (see section 801(d)(1) and (d)(2)), the statement will not be considered “hearsay” despite having been made out-of-court.
Sifting through this legalese can be rather difficult. Simply put, a hearsay statement is any out-of-court statement that is being offered to prove the content of the statement itself.
For example, suppose that the defendant is attempting to minimize their liability by claiming that another defendant was involved and contributed to your injuries (but drove away). They introduce the eyewitness, out-of-court testimony of a bystander, which includes a statement that they saw a third car driving away from the scene after the collision.
Now, given the nature of the testimony — it is an out-of-court statement, and is intended to prove the truth of its content, which is that a third car was involved in the accident but drove away — it would likely constitute a hearsay statement, and would not be allowed into evidence.
The hearsay evidence rule may seem confusing to the layperson, but there are good reasons as to why the rule exists in the first place. Generally speaking, the hearsay rule is intended to prevent untrustworthy statements from being introduced into evidence. Out-of-court statements have not been properly cross-examined, after all. If every hearsay statement were allowed, then there would be far too many inconsistencies in the evidentiary record, and it would create stumbling blocks for the resolution of the case.
Exceptions to the Hearsay Rule
In Arizona, there are a number of exceptions to the hearsay rule.
Even if the statement is deemed hearsay, it may be introduced if it qualifies as: 1) an excited utterance made about an unexpected or otherwise startling event, such as a car accident; 2) an immediate impression of an event, after or while the declarant perceived it; 3) a public record; 4) a statement made for the purpose of a medical diagnosis or medical treatment; and more.
Hearsay exceptions are numerous, and in many cases — with skilled argumentation — they can be used to introduce otherwise prohibited evidence.
Consult With an Experienced Phoenix Injury Lawyer for Further Guidance
Whether the admission of hearsay evidence will have a positive effect on likelihood of success at trial depends on the particular circumstances of the case — there are no absolute answers. If the hearsay evidence is favorable to your arguments, then your attorney will argue that certain exceptions apply. If the hearsay evidence is unfavorable to your arguments, then your attorney will argue the opposite.
Litigators who understand how to maneuver around evidentiary issues — such as hearsay evidence admission — can have an enormous effect on the success of your injury lawsuit. As such, it’s important that you select an attorney who has a track record of success in handling evidentiary conflicts.
Here at Hirsch & Lyon, our attorneys have decades of experience representing injured clients in motor vehicle accident disputes in Arizona. We are committed to client-oriented legal representation, and prioritize the interests of our clients in a number of ways that give us a significant competitive advantage.
Call (602) 535-1900 to speak with an experienced Phoenix injury lawyer today. Initial consultation is free and confidential.