The hallmark to a successful personal injury case is credentialing the injured person. The way that we credential our injured client is by transparency and credibility. If a jury likes and buys the injured person's story, it will award them fair and just compensation for their injuries.
On the other side of the coin, the insurance company and their lawyers, try to undermine and discredit the injured person's credibility, and one of the ways that they discredit is by impeachment with prior inconsistent statements.
In simple terms a prior inconsistent statement is a statement that is made under oath at some time before trial that differs from your trial testimony. The Indiana Rules of Evidence say this about prior inconsistent statements:
Rule 613. (a) Showing or Disclosing the Statement During Examination. When examining a witness about the witness's prior statement, a party need not show it or disclose its content to the witness. But the party must, on request, show it or disclose its contents to an adverse party's attorney. (b) Extrinsic Evidence of a Prior Inconsistent Statement. Extrinsic evidence of a witness's prior inconsistent statement is admissible only if the witness is given an opportunity to explain or deny the statement and an adverse party is given an opportunity to examine the witness about it, or if justice so requires.
Here is one way a prior inconsistent statement can deep six your injury case. You were involved in a car accident where another car made a left hand turn in front of you and you couldn't avoid the crash. The issue in the case is whether you had enough time to stop or avoid the crash.
You gave a deposition, statement under oath, before trial and you were asked if you saw the other vehicle before the crash and you answered yes. You were then asked how long before the crash did you see the other vehicle and without really thinking you testified a minute.
In trial you get up and testify about the crash and you testify that it was a split second from the time you saw the other car and the time of the crash. The insurance company lawyer then gets up and asks you about your split second answer and then reads your prior deposition testimony to the jury.
The statements are inconsistent and the jury may hold the prior inconsistent statement against you. Based on these two statements, the jury may believe that you are not credible and hold the difference in testimony against you when determining who was at fault for the crash.
I share this great information with you so that you understand what you say to people after an accident can can come back to bite you. So it's important to be very consistent regarding the facts and circumstances of the event.
If you have any questions about an Indiana personal injury matter, you can always give me a call (219) 874-4878.