Evidence plays a critical role in every legal case, including personal injury cases, and relevancy is a critical factor in the presentation of evidence. Better understanding the role that evidence plays in your case and how the matter of relevancy factors into this evidence can help you get a better handle on your personal injury case.
For evidence to be relevant to your case, it must directly support a fact that is of consequence to your case. All relevant evidence is admissible – unless it is otherwise prohibited by law. Evidence that is not relevant, however, is not admissible. As such, there is a two-pronged test for determining whether the evidence in your case is admissible as relevant. The first prong deals with whether the evidence is relevant in the first place, and the second deals with whether or not the evidence is material (which means that it is important to the essence of your case). Most issues regarding relevancy relate to indirect facts that are employed to prove or support something that is circumstantial, to begin with.
Perhaps the clearest way to consider evidence is by way of example. If you, for example, were injured in a car accident and the other driver involved had a history of driving while intoxicated but had not been drinking when the accident that left you injured occurred, evidence regarding the motorist’s prior problems with drinking and driving would probably be considered irrelevant. This is because it has no bearing on the driver’s actions in relation to the accident at hand. If, on the other hand, the driver in question was under the influence when the accident that left you injured took place, evidence related to his prior drinking and driving may be deemed both relevant and admissible.
Exceptions to the Rule
Even if the evidence at hand is deemed relevant to your case, the court can deny it on other grounds. For example, if the evidence is considered more prejudicial than probative, the court is likely to deny admissibility. The term itself – more prejudicial than probative – is just legalese for saying that the evidence is more damaging than it is useful for proving the point trying to be made. The court is likely to exclude any evidence that serves to accomplish any of the following:
It is likely to cause unfair prejudice
It is likely to mislead the jury
It is likely to confuse the legal issue at hand