In a Virginia personal injury case or wrongful death case, hearsay can be a defining factor in the court room. It is a straight forward concept with many complex exceptions. Hearsay is evidence in court that is a statement made out of court being offered for the truth of the matter asserted. The statement rests upon the credibility of the person who made the out-of-court statement. Hearsay evidence is not admissible because there is no way for the opposing party to cross-examine the person who made the statement out of court.
While the general rule is that hearsay is not admissible, there are many exceptions to that rule. Some examples are:
If the declarant is unavailable, there are some other exceptions to the hearsay rule and some statements may be admissible. Examples of these exceptions are:
While the general rule is that hearsay is not admissible, there are many, many exceptions and additions to those listed above. Many cases hinge upon whether a statement is admissible to be heard by the jury.
This is just a quick overview of the hearsay rule. It is certainly not all-encompassing. In law school, a significant amount of time and attention is spent making future lawyers understand the importance and significance of the hearsay rule as it is complex and may one day be vital to a case.
So, the next time you’re watching reruns of Law & Order and the prosecutor says “Objection, hearsay!”, you will have a better understanding of what that means.