The Use Of Inferences In Personal Injury Cases
You may have grown up with your parents telling you not to assume things, and that when you make assumptions, you are more often than not wrong. But in law, we actually make assumptions all the time—in fact, asking a jury to make assumptions is an important part of many personal injury cases.
They’re Called Inferences
We don’t really call them assumptions in court, although that’s what they really are. Rather, we call them inferences. Inferences are logical conclusions that can be drawn with the evidence that is presented. They are assumptions that we can make based on our experiences as human beings.
Inferences are not flat out guesses, or conclusions made at random.
Inferences happen all the time. Some are stronger than others. In a criminal case, if someone was stabbed, and in the next room, the roommate is sitting with blood on his or her shirt, you didn’t see the stabbing, and you don’t have or see a weapon, but a safe inference may be, that the roommate had something to do with the crime.
Inferences in Injury Cases
Inferences are used in personal injury law as well.
For example, assume that we need to know how long a liquid had been sitting on a store floor, before someone fell on it. We don’t know exactly how long the substance was there. But if that liquid were spread out over a large area, and it were muddy from dirt, and had numerous imprints of people’s feet in it, we could safely infer that the spill wasn’t new; that it had been there at least long enough to be spread out, and for multiple people to walk through it.
Inferences are allowable in personal injury cases. But you cannot stack inferences on top of each other. So, in our example above, we could infer the liquid had been there a long time, but we can’t just automatically infer that the property owner did anything wrong, just because that was the case. We would need more evidence to show what the property owner did or did not do, to keep its property safe.
Let’s say that your car hit a piece of furniture in the middle of the roadway. On the side of the road, just nearby, is a pickup truck, with some of its load falling out of the truck bed. You could safely and legally assume that the furniture came from that truck.
But you could not then also just assume that the truck driver was negligent—you would need more evidence or information about whether the furniture was secured properly, or why it fell out of the truck, to prove your case.
Be Careful Using Inferences
A jury verdict where the jury uses too many inferences can result in a verdict being overturned on appeal. So while inferences are appropriate, and even useful in court, it’s always best to try to prove whatever you can, with actual evidence.
Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today for help understanding what you need to prove in your personal injury case.