Florida’s Rule of Evidence Regarding Witnesses’ Inconsistent Statements

In the initial aftermath of a Florida car accident, everyone’s adrenaline is pumping, and people are not often thinking about the consequences of what they say. Over time, memories tend to fade, and biases may creep into a witness’ thought process. Thus, there is an argument to be made that statements made in the immediate aftermath of an accident are the most reliable. In fact, it is not uncommon for a witness’ testimony at trial to differ from the statement they provided to police in the moments after an accident.

Legal News GavelNormally, hearsay evidence is prohibited during a trial. Hearsay evidence is an out-of-court statement that is being offered to prove what the statement says. For example, a witness’ statement to police describing how an accident occurred is generally considered inadmissible hearsay. The proper way to get this testimony in would be to call the witness to testify at trial. But what happens when a witness’ testimony changes from the time of the accident to trial?

The Florida Rules of Evidence address this very issue in Rule 90.614. Under Rule 90.614, a party is entitled to cross-examine a witness regarding any prior inconsistent statements they made. Rule 90.614 acts as an exception to the general prohibition on hearsay. Thus, if a witness takes the stand and testifies to something different from what they told police in an accident report, that witness can be questioned about the inconsistency. A recent car accident case illustrates this concept.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when she was struck by the defendant’s vehicle while crossing the road at an unmarked crosswalk. One person witnessed the accident. Prior to trial, the plaintiff asked the court to preclude the responding police officers from testifying to what the eyewitness told them. The court agreed and limited all eyewitness testimony to personal observations.

When the eyewitness testified at trial, her explanation of the accident was different from the explanation that she gave police on the day of the accident. The plaintiff attempted to cross-examine the witness on this inconsistency, but the court prevented the plaintiff from doing so. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.

The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the lower court infringed upon her rights when it precluded her from cross-examining the witness about her prior inconsistent statements. Importantly, the state where the accident occurred has a rule that is very similar to Florida Rule of Evidence 90.614.

On appeal, the court agreed with the plaintiff. The court explained that the plaintiff’s pre-trial motion asking to limit the testimony of the police officers to their own personal observations did not prevent the plaintiff from questioning the eyewitness about what she personally observed on the day of the accident. The court then held that this error was so prejudicial to the plaintiff that a new trial was warranted.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in South Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated South Florida personal injury attorneys at the law form of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience handling all types of personal injury claims, including Florida car accident cases. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Case Against Pharmacy Following Medication Error, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 26, 2017.

Court Finds Question of Whether Defendant Had Knowledge of Dangerous Condition Was a Matter for the Jury, Rejecting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 5, 2018.

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