Suppressing Evidence in a Motor Vehicle Lawsuit to Your Advantage

In the state of Arizona, as in other states, both plaintiffs and defendants may prevent certain evidence from being introduced into the lawsuit, to their benefit.  An effective evidentiary strategy is critical to success in a motor vehicle lawsuit, or in any other civil lawsuit — personal injury or otherwise.

Generally speaking, the defendant will attempt to introduce evidence that undermines your various claims.  For example, if you apologized to the defendant after the occurrence of a motor vehicle accident, the defendant may argue that this post-accident apology constituted an admission of fault, and that it is therefore relevant to the injury claims at-issue.  Alternatively, the defendant may attempt to introduce evidence of a statement made by a witness at the scene of the accident.  Depending on the circumstances, however, each of these statements may be suppressed (to your benefit).

Evidentiary Privileges

As the plaintiff in an Arizona motor vehicle accident lawsuit, you are likely to encounter a number of unexpected challenges in the evidentiary context.  Oftentimes, for example, the defendant will attempt to undermine your injury claims by asserting that they are “made up” or exaggerated in some way, perhaps by introducing evidence of your past psychiatric records with your therapist.  This is a broad overreach, however, unless you have made your mental health an issue in the lawsuit — the Arizona medical record privilege shields gives you the right to suppress the introduction of medical record evidence that is not relevant to the injury claims at-issue.

Other evidentiary privileges giving you the right to suppress evidence include, but are not necessarily limited, to the:

  • Attorney-Client privilege
  • Spousal privilege
  • Physician-patient privilege
  • Penitent privilege
  • And more

Application of the Hearsay Rule

The hearsay rule is almost universally applicable, in Arizona and elsewhere.  Put simply, the hearsay rule prevents certain statements that are made outside of the courtroom setting from being admitted into evidence for the purpose of proving that the content of the statement at-issue is true.  The intention of the hearsay rule is twofold: 1) to prevent the introduction of unreliable statements, and 2) to give litigating parties the opportunity to formally cross-examine the person who has made the statement at-issue.  If a court were to consistently allow the admission of hearsay statements, then the defendant could introduce statements that have no bearing in reality and that are not properly subject to scrutiny.

If you found that a bit confusing, there’s no need to worry!  Consider the following example for clarity.

Imagine that you are injured in a motor vehicle accident.  The defendant would like to introduce evidence of a statement made by your difficult neighbor.  At the time of the accident, your neighbor made a statement claiming that you are exaggerating your injuries.  Under Arizona law, however, you would likely be entitled to suppress the admission of such evidence pursuant to the hearsay rule.  The statement made by the neighbor cannot be introduced to “prove” that you are exaggerating your injuries.  Even if the defendant wished to introduce such evidence as proof of your reputation for exaggeration, it would likely be considered unfairly prejudicial to your case.

In Arizona, there are a number of hearsay exceptions to keep an eye out for, however.  The defendant may be allowed to introduce hearsay evidence if it constitutes a present sense impression, excited utterance, statement for medical diagnosis, recorded recollection, part of a public record, and more.

Balancing Evidentiary Factors

In Arizona, the Rules of Evidence (Rule 403, to be exact) gives a court power to exclude relevant evidence if — on the whole — its value to the case is outweighed by certain dangerous factors, such as the risk of unfair prejudice, issue confusion, misleading the jury, and undue delay, among other factors.  Your attorney will argue that damaging evidence (if it does not fall within an evidentiary privilege or within the hearsay umbrella) is either irrelevant, or that it is relevant but is outweighed by these factors.

Connect to a Skilled Phoenix Car Accident Lawyer Today

Have you been injured in a motor vehicle accident by another?  Arizona law may give you the opportunity to litigate your injury claims and recover damages as compensation.  Success in litigation requires that you overcome the various evidentiary roadblocks that the defendant is likely to challenge you with.

Hirsch & Lyon is a Phoenix-based law firm whose attorneys boast decades of combined experience representing clients in a range of personal injury litigation, including motor vehicle accident claims.  We are aggressive advocates for our clients, and provide discounted contingency fees, so our clients can keep more of their damages.

Call (602) 535-1900 to get in touch with an experienced Phoenix car accident lawyer here at Hirsch & Lyon.