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Rules of evidence and physician statements of fault

In our last post, we looked very briefly at a Michigan law which protects sympathetic physician communications from being used in court. Such statements are not necessarily critical for proving medical negligence, though, and the law does not protect physician admissions of fault or negligence from being used against them in medical malpractice litigation.

Evidentiary issues in medical malpractice cases are governed by established rules of evidence. These rules dictate what type of evidence may be admitted in court and what types of evidence may not be admitted. Physician admissions of fault could potentially be admitted under various evidentiary classifications. 

Generally speaking, hearsay is not admissible under the rules if evidence. Hearsay refers to out-of-court statements offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. That being said, certain types of statements, although made outside court, are not considered hearsay and so may be admissible in court. In addition, other statements made outside court are considered hearsay, but may still be admitted by exception.

One example of a non-hearsay statement made outside court which might come up in the context of medical malpractice litigation is a statement in which the party who made the statement manifests belief in the truth of the statement. A physician who makes a statement indicating or suggesting fault for the injury of a patient would be an example. A physician's statement of fault could also potentially be admitted as a statement against interest, a hearsay exception. Such statements are those which, due to potential civil or criminal liability, a reasonable person wouldn't make unless he or she believed in the truth of what was being said.

In our next post, we'll look at another evidentiary category that can come up in medical malpractice cases and why it is important to work with an experienced attorney to sort out evidentiary issues in these cases. 

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