Lawyer Checklist for Offering Exhibits into Evidence at Trial
There are two categories of evidence a good West Virginia personal injury lawyer must use at trial. The first category is testimony from witnesses. The second is exhibits. Exhibits are simply tangible items shown to a jury during trial. Typical exhibits used in personal injury trials include medical records, photos of injuries, damaged clothing, and the plaintiff’s car repair bills.
Exhibits fall into one of three types: (1) real; (2) illustrative; and (3) persuasive aids. Real exhibits come from the actual event in question and are not the product of the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer. Real exhibits in include medical bills, auto repair bills, and photographs of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Illustrative exhibits are prepared after the accident to help show the jury what happened. Illustrative exhibits are also called demonstrative exhibits and typically include diagrams of the accident scene and photographs of the intersection, for example, taken prior to trial to help the witness illustrate how the accident happened.
The third type of trial exhibits are persuasive aids. This category of exhibits includes timelines created by the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer, enlargements of important trial testimony, and PowerPoint presentations used in the attorneys opening and closing statements.
An important consideration a West Virginia trial lawyer has to make when preparing his or her exhibits is that only real exhibits will always go to the jury room for deliberations. Sometimes a judge will allow certain illustrative exhibits to be taken to the jury room during deliberations, but it’s the judge’s call. Persuasive aids are only allowed to be used during the trial. Thus, a good personal injury lawyer will make sure he or she has sufficient real exhibits for the jury to consider during deliberations.
Below is a checklist I use to get all exhibits admitted into evidence during West Virginia trials involving claims for personal injuries.
1. Mark the exhibit with an identification sticker.
2. Show opposing counsel the exhibit prior to showing it to the witness.
3. Show the witness the exhibit.
4. Lay the foundation for admission of the exhibit; in other words, ask the witness the document is genuine and authentic.
5. Offer the exhibit into evidence.
6. Display the exhibit for the jury, preferably on a projection screen, and ask the witness to discuss it after its admitted into evidence.
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Brooks West is a West Virginia personal injury lawyer who helps people who have been injured by negligence or wrongful conduct. He is the President and founder of West Law Firm and has been an attorney since 2005. Brooks is a Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum member and has been awarded the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell.