Unfairly Prejudicial Evidence May Be Excluded
By its very nature, all evidence in a personal injury case is prejudicial. That means it favors one side or the other. If evidence was neutral, and didn’t really help or hurt anyone, it probably would be ignored by the parties.
The goal of the parties in a personal injury trial is to put forth as much evidence as possible, and to make that evidence as powerful and persuasive as possible. But sometimes, that evidence can be so persuasive, so powerful, that it may not even be allowed to be used in court.
Unfairly Prejudicial Evidence
There is a rule of evidence that makes some kinds of evidence unfairly prejudicial. This doesn’t refer to prejudice in a racial or discriminatory sense, but rather, refers to evidence that is so emotional, that it threats to cloud the reason and opinion of the jurors.
But wait—isn’t that exactly what you want to do, as a party in a lawsuit—to get the jurors to feel for and sympathize with you? Yes, it is—but the law also doesn’t want the jurors’ opinions clouded by emotion; jurors are supposed to make their decisions based on the evidence presented to them in the trial, not on feelings or emotions.
What Is and Is Not Prejudicial?
There are certain facts, even certain words, which would tend to alter or skew a juror’s feelings so much, that the juror would be automatically emotionally so drawn to a side, that they are no longer making a decision based on the evidence, but rather, on feelings or emotions.
For example, many Defendants don’t like, and will object to, calling a Plaintiff in an injury case, a “victim.” To a Defendant, victim implies someone helpless, who has been injured through no fault of his or her own—exactly what the Defendant is trying to avoid the jury believing.
If there is conflicting testimony about what happened at the scene of an accident, and the Defendant was drunk at the time, you may want to bring that out. But the judge may not allow that, feeling that if the jury knows that the Defendant was drunk, it could skew their ability to make a rationed opinion based on the evidence in the case.
How Prejudicial Evidence is Handled
When prejudicial evidence is presented, the judge will often ask the parties to tell the judge what the evidence is first, before the jury hears it. The judge will then look to see if the prejudicial evidence is really necessary, or if there is some other, less inflammatory way of presenting the evidence to the jury.
If the evidence is really necessary, the judge can instruct the jury not to let their emotions interfere with their opinion—that is, the judge will try to make the evidence “less inflammatory” by giving an instruction to the jury.
Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today so you know what to expect in your personal injury trial.