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What the Lack of a Dead Man’s Statute Means to Florida Personal Injury Victims

One of the many roles of judges during a Florida personal injury case is to determine what evidence is admitted at trial as well as which evidence the jury will be permitted to consider during its deliberations. To guide a judge’s decision on these critical issues, lawmakers have enacted the Florida Rules of Evidence.

One of the unique aspects of Florida evidentiary law is the lack of what is known as a dead man’s statute. About half of the states have a dead man’s statute, which prohibits an interested party from testifying about a conversation they had with someone who has since died. The idea behind the rule is that because the deceased person is not present to refute the representations made by the interested party, it is difficult to ensure these statements are false or self-serving.

Instead of a dead man’s statute, Florida lawmakers have included section 90.804(2)(e) to help alleviate some of the concerns the dead man’s statute was meant to address. Under section 90.804(2)(e), written or oral statements that were made by a person who is unavailable due to “death or because of then-existing physical or mental illness or infirmity” can be admitted into evidence. These statements are only admissible, however, if the statement relates to the subject matter of the statement made by an adverse party to the deceased. The phrasing of Florida’s rule is confusing. Simply stated, it allows for the statements of the deceased to come into evidence if an adverse party testifies to conversations with the deceased.

It may be difficult to visualize how the dead man’s statute, or the lack thereof, can come into play in a Florida personal injury case. However, the lack of a dead man’s rule can benefit a personal injury plaintiff in some instances in which the defendant has died since the accident. For example, if, following a car accident, the defendant explains to the plaintiff that they were on their phone and distracted at the time of the crash, the dead man’s rule may act to preclude the defendant’s statement if they were to die before the case reached trial. However, Under Florida’s law, the statement would be admissible as evidence showing that the defendant was acting negligently at the time of the accident.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in a South Florida car accident, contact the dedicated personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Cecere Santana. At Cecere Santana, we represent injury victims and their families in all types of South Florida car accident cases and, with our 35+ years of combined experience, we know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

Florida Court Explains a Plaintiff’s Comparative Negligence Is Irrelevant in Recent Intentional Tort Case, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, December 13, 2018.

Florida Bicyclist Accidents Caused by Distracted Drivers, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, published December 5, 2018

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