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Hearsay can help or hurt one's medical malpractice case

Massachusetts residents who have been harmed by a negligent doctor or nurse may find themselves struggling to get by. In addition to their physical and emotional pain and suffering, these innocent victims are often left without the compensation they need to pay their medical expenses and recoup their lost wages. Sure, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be able to provide significant relief, but succeeding on these claims oftentimes requires advanced legal skills and knowledge not only about the law, but also the rules of evidence and the trial rules.

For example, hearsay can either be a powerful tool to support a victim's claim, or it can be extremely damaging to one's claim, depending on the circumstances. Hearsay is an out of court statement testified to in court by someone other than the one who made the statement. For example, a nurse who testified that another patient said he saw a doctor make a medical mistake on the plaintiff would be testifying to hearsay.

Generally speaking, hearsay is inadmissible in court. However, in order to prevent it from coming into evidence the opposing attorney needs to properly object to it. On the flipside, there are exceptions to the general bar on hearsay. Statements by a party opponent, for example, are not hearsay, and statements made for medical diagnosis are an exception to hearsay. Business records are also carved out from the bar on hearsay. Again, though, those seeking to admit hearsay evidence need to be able to properly present it to the court and be prepared to respond to an objection from the opposing party.

Those who fail to skillfully handle evidentiary issues like this may be putting themselves at risk of losing their case. Failing to make an objection to evidence will also disallow an individual from bringing up that issue on appeal. Thus, those who are amidst a medical malpractice claim should carefully consider whether they would benefit from the assistance of an experienced legal professional.

Source: FindLaw, "Hearsay Evidence," accessed on Mar. 3, 2017

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