If you've been involved in a car accident that has become litigated you may be wondering, “Are text messages admissible in court?”
Perhaps the other driver texted you an apology and offered to pay but now they are denying liability. Can this information be used as evidence to win your case?
In the following, we'll answer this question and explore the various factors that affect text message admissibility. Specifically we'll cover…
Let's get started…
The short answer to this entire line of questioning is yes, text messages can be used as evidence in a court of law. However, there are a number of hurdles that must be passed to get a text message admitted as evidence. A careful approach is required, so don't make any assumptions.
In legal jargon, text messages are referred to as electronically stored information (ESI) and they are required to pass a number of tests before being accepting. A few of these are:
As you can see getting text messages or other forms of ESI into evidence is less straightforward than you might imagine. A careful foundation must be laid that demonstrates the above qualifications are met.
The first (and most important) step you can take towards getting text messages into court is properly preserving them.
Another barrier you may face in authenticating that these messages is proving they were genuinely written, sent, or received by the other party (plus showing the context matches what you are claiming).
There are different ways a set of ESI can be authenticated, here are some of the most common:
Authenticating text messages is something your attorney will be well versed in but it does not hurt to be educated yourself.
Anyone who has watched many court TV shows will know that “hearsay” is a common reason that things get thrown out of court. According to the Legal Dictionary , hearsay is:
What exactly does this mean for our purposes? Let's use an example.
Let's say you receive a text message from someone who knows the other party saying that “they tend to drink a lot and that they'd probably had a few, which contributed to the accident.” A court is unlikely to allow this text message to be used as it is an out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
There can, of course, be exceptions but generally, this rule holds true. Knowing this definition and example should give you some idea of what's going to fly and what isn't.
There are some other tests that can be administered to determine if a text can be used. Assessing relevance and if the probative value of the text outweighs any unfair prejudice, for example -- but authenticating and overcoming hearsay are your primary battles.
Text messages are generally admissible in court but the path to getting them accepted is not always a straight one. Consulting with an experienced attorney is something you'll want to do and also, be sure to keep the basics in mind:
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