Telling The Story of Your Florida Personal Injury Case With Circumstantial Evidence

In our past post, we discussed direct evidence. Today we will be covering its close cousin, circumstantial evidence. Of all the legal terms thrown around on television, perhaps the most misunderstood is circumstantial evidence. The law is clear, though — circumstantial evidence is evidence.

So let’s back up and look at why this seems controversial. After nearly 30 years on the air, Law & Order has shown millions of Americans the insides of police departments and courtrooms as week after week they follow a single case through the system. Rarely, however, have they ever shown a case that turned solely on direct evidence — “I saw the murder happen, and it was Steve who pulled the trigger” — because, frankly, that wouldn’t make for a very good murder mystery. On Law & Order, there are no eyewitnesses at all.

Instead, the detectives rely on building their cases with circumstantial evidence, which prove the case sideways. They find connections with phone records, credit card receipts, tire tracks, and fingerprints. Each new fact places another piece of the puzzle, and then the picture emerges — sometimes even before all the puzzle pieces are on the board.

That is the essence of circumstantial evidence — these are facts that allow the jury to put the puzzle together themselves.

So imagine the example from the previous post — there has been a car collision. The plaintiff says the defendant ran a red light, while the defendant says the light was yellow.

The injured party — the plaintiff — takes the stand and testifies, that when she drove through the intersection, her traffic light was green, but she could not see the defendant’s light from her position. From this testimony, the jury can conclude that the defendant had a red light — common experience with traffic lights is that when one light is green, the other is red. No one in this example directly testified that the light was, but the jury could infer it.

Of course, the inferences we can draw from circumstantial evidence depend on laying all the evidence in the open. For example, if the defense introduced a witness who testified that the plaintiff had a green light, and the defendant had a yellow light, the jury could conclude that the light malfunctioned, not that the defendant was necessarily negligent.

When circumstantial evidence is at play, it takes an experienced trial attorney, like the personal injury lawyers at Syfrett, Dykes & Furr in Panama City, Florida, to put the pieces together into a cohesive story that a jury can understand. By its very nature, circumstantial evidence requires some explanation for the jury, and that requires skilled lawyering.

Next up, expert evidence — what it can do, and what it can’t.

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