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We all know individuals who are chronically clumsy or careless. These generally are not bad people; rather, they simply seem to routinely forget to take the precautions and protections necessary to keep themselves and those around them safe. While this can cause these individuals to develop a negative social reputation – individuals know to be on their guard whenever they are around such people – can this reputation be used in a personal injury lawsuit to help an injury victim prevail?

How Prior History Could Be Helpful to a Personal Injury Plaintiff

Plaintiffs who are injured by individuals known to be clumsy or negligent may wish to have this information presented to a judge or jury to help bolster their claim. The plaintiff could argue, for example, that because the defendant has a history of engaging in careless conduct that injures others, it is more likely than not true that the person engaged in careless behavior in the present case. In other words, the plaintiff could argue that while any defendant is capable of engaging in negligent conduct, a defendant with a reputation for clumsiness is more likely than others to have been careless in a personal injury incident.

The California Rules of Evidence and Evidence of Carelessness

Knowing the persuasive power of such evidence, the California Rules of Evidence prohibit a plaintiff from introducing evidence of a defendant’s character or reputation or of specific incidents of negligent behavior for the express purpose of creating an inference that the defendant is more likely to have committed a negligent act in the present case. To illustrate, the Rules of Evidence in California would not permit a plaintiff to introduce the fact that the defendant has been found at-fault in five previous car accidents to suggest to the judge or jury that the defendant is at fault in the present case.

There are exceptions to this general prohibition, however. First, evidence of prior acts or reputation can be admitted as evidence of the defendant’s motive or the lack of mistake. Also (and more significant), evidence of prior acts or reputation is admissible when used to rebut the defendant’s characterization of his or her habits or reputation. If the defendant in a car accident case testifies that he has a spotless driving record and is a careful driver, the plaintiff could then introduce evidence of prior car accidents in which the defendant has been involved to rebut the defendant’s testimony.  

Contact Case Barnett Law for Help with Your California Car Wreck Lawsuit

The experienced Orange County car accident lawyers at Case Barnett Law are thoroughly familiar with the rules of evidence applicable in California personal injury lawsuits. We know how to help you build a convincing case for compensation, and we will devote our firm’s resources to collecting the evidence you will need to prevail in your case. Call Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or reach out to the firm online for help today.

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