When is Evidence Relevant?

Evidence is 'relevant' when it has applicability to the issues presented in the case. Relevancy is that quality in evidence that makes it properly applicable to the truth or falsity of matters at issue between the parties. A fact is relevant when it helps to prove an issue. It is such evidence that bears directly upon the point of fact in issue and proves or has a tendency to prove the point alleged.

Relevancy refers to the probative value of evidence and its relationship to the purpose for which it is offered to prove. Relevant evidence is that evidence that has any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable than it would otherwise be without the evidence. Relevancy is the basic test for the admissibility of evidence. Evidence is relevant if reasonable inferences can be drawn that shed light on a contested matter.

Conversely, when information or evidence is deemed irrelevant it should not be admitted into court. Irrelevant evidence is that evidence that is deemed immaterial or not relating to the matter at issue. Irrelevant evidence is deemed impertinent to a fact or argument and it is not material to a decision in the case. Irrelevant evidence is commonly objected to and disallowed at trial.

For example, in a personal injury case, the insurance company may attempt to dig up unfavorable information about claimants in order to make the claimant appear in a negative light. This is especially true if the claimant has a criminal background. It is important that your lawyer be familiar with the rules of evidence and know how to use those rules and protect your interest by excluding irrelevant information from getting into evidence. Most jurisdictions have a time limit on when a criminal conviction can be admitted into evidence. Criminal convictions may also be excluded if they are not felonies. In many states, an arrest generally can not be admitted into evidence in a personal injury case and even convictions can be excluded if they are more than 10 years old.

Experienced personal injury trial lawyers understand the rules of evidence and have a good idea of what they can get into evidence in court and what they can exclude. Cases can be won or lost based on what is admitted or excluded from evidence at trial. When it comes to the rules of evidence, what you don't know can hurt you.