Evidence can be defined as testimony, writings, material objects, or other things presented that are offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of a fact. Evidence is what is used at trial to prove the elements of your case or the elements of your defense.
The time to begin preparing your evidence is as close to the time the events (facts) occurred as possible that caused you to consider bringing your lawsuit or caused you to believe you would be sued.
Before you prepare your evidence to go to court, you need to analyze what evidence you will need. To do this you should analyze your case as follows:
- Determine each and every one of the elements necessary to prove your case or claim, or to prove the defenses to the case or claim brought against you;
- Determine the facts necessary to establish each element of your claim or defense; and
- Determine the evidence needed to prove each fact of your claim or defense.
Categories of Evidence After you have made these determinations, you will have an idea of the kind of evidence you should gather and prepare. There are basically four categories of evidence from which to choose:
- Demonstrative, Experimental, and Scientific Evidence. Demonstrative evidence includes physical objects such a: clothing, weapons, tools, machines, photographs, maps, models, computer animation, motion pictures, diagrams, x-rays, physical examinations. Experimental evidence is evidence, which is the result of an experiment conducted outside or inside the court under circumstances similar to those giving rise to the issue in the case. Scientific evidence is evidence produced by expert scientific techniques such as experiments, chemical, and other tests.
- Documentary Evidence. The most common type of evidence used at trial, documentary evidence includes all kinds of writings, including those that are handwritten, typed, printed, photocopied, photographed, and every other method of recording on any tangible thing any form of communication or representation. This includes written instruments and documents include checks, receipts, invoices, contracts, leases, wills, and official documents.
- Witnesses. Lay witnesses are called on to testify as to all types of physical evidence, as well as events and facts about which they have personal knowledge. Expert witnesses are called on to testify as to matters outside the experience or knowledge of the average person.
- Discovery Evidence. Evidence can be obtained in the discovery phase of a case through by the following methods: depositions, written interrogatories, inspection of documents, tangible things, and places, physical or mental examinations, requests for admissions, and exchange of expert witness information.
For a detailed discussion of discovery, go to How to Conduct Discovery for Your Court Case at AllBusiness.com.
Once you have your evidence, you must prepare it to be introduced at trial. The following points and issues should be addressed when preparing evidence:
- Relevance. The evidence must be relevant to prove any of the facts or events of your case.
- Witnesses. Witnesses will be required to introduce pieces of evidence through testimony and will also testify as to facts about which they have personal knowledge or expert knowledge. You should select the best witnesses for each piece of evidence.
- Authenticate the evidence. Physical evidence must be authenticated, meaning it must be identified and must be shown to be what you say it is. You must decide which witness will testify as to which item(s) of evidence. If you are dealing with a writing, recording, or photograph, you must have the original unless a copy is allowed by law.
- Lay a foundation. For certain types of evidence to be admissible you must satisfy certain preliminary requirements, or lay a foundation for admissibility. A lay witness must have personal knowledge about facts to which he or she is testifying. An expert witness must be qualified to testify about the particular evidence. Documents must be authentic. Demonstrative evidence must clarify a witness’s testimony and be substantially similar to facts at issue in the case. Physical evidence must be relevant.
- Logistical problems. Will there be any logistical problems to introducing the evidence? Will you require a computer in the courtroom to show something to the jury? Will your courtroom be technically advanced sufficient to accommodate the evidence you wish to present? Do you have a large exhibit that may be difficult to bring into court? Will a piece of evidence spoil before you get to court?
For a detailed discussion of organizing testimony, go to Organizing Your Testimony Before You Go to Court at AllBusiness.com.