In Virginia, what does the term “hearsay” mean?

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The below information was written by our personal injury lawyers in Virginia Beach.

The Virginia Rules of Evidence define hearsay as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” The term “declarant” is defined by the Virginia Rules of Evidence as “a person who makes a statement.” The term “statement” is defined by the Virginia Rules of Evidence as “(1) an oral or written assertion or (2) nonverbal conduct of a person, if it is intended as an assertion.” Hearsay evidence is inadmissible, unless it falls within one of the numerous exceptions to the hearsay rule.

Writing on the justification for the hearsay rule, the Virginia Supreme Court has said:

It is a basic proposition in the law of evidence that hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered for the truth of what is asserted. The reason hearsay evidence is excluded is that it is not subject to the tests which help the trier of fact ascertain the truth of testimony. For example, where hearsay testimony is used the declarant is not present and cannot, therefore, be cross-examined. Because of this we have concluded that hearsay evidence, that is not admissible under any of the recognized exceptions, lacks any guarantee of trustworthiness and must be excluded.

Amongst other things, the hearsay rule is designed to avoid situations in which evidence is presented at trial, which is not subject to cross-examination. Cross-examination is the questioning of a witness by a party opposed to the party who called the witness to testify. The importance of the right of cross-examination cannot be overstated, as it is through cross-examination that an opposing party can show the bias of a witness, the facts the witness omitted on direct examination, the interest the witness has in the outcome of the case, etc., which are all factors that the judge or jury hearing the evidence can take into consideration when making a determination in the case. For a discussion regarding the role of the judge and the jury in the trial of a personal injury lawsuit, click here.

In the personal injury context, a plaintiff’s treating physician is routinely permitted to testify from his or her office notes, when that physician does not have a recollection of his or her treatment of the plaintiff. This exception to the hearsay rule is known as the recorded recollection exception. For a discussion on the recorded recollection exception to the hearsay rule, click here. In situations where the plaintiff’s treating physician does not recall the details of his or her treatment of the plaintiff, the examining lawyer can direct the physician’s attention to the physician’s office notes, and the physician can read from his or her office notes verbatim.

Questions regarding the hearsay rule and exceptions to the hearsay rule are specific to the individual personal injury case, and we encourage you to call our personal injury lawyers in Virginia Beach.   Our personal injury lawyers can advise the prospective client as to what testimony a witness can give at trial and what testimony will be prohibited on the basis of hearsay or some other rule of evidence. As in all personal injury cases, an experienced personal injury lawyer can also advise the injured person as to the value of the injury claim, can guide the injured person through the process of making a claim with the applicable insurance company or companies, and can represent the injured person in the litigation of the personal injury claim, if a personal injury lawsuit becomes necessary.

Waiting can hurt your case. To find out how our personal injury lawyers in Virginia Beach can help you, please contact us at (757) 486-2700.

 

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