Rules of Evidence in Jury Trials

If you have ever served on a jury or watched trials on television, you have seen lawyers object to evidence that the jury was not allowed to see. It raises the question in the jury’s mind of “why they are keeping information from us if the trial is about truth and justice”. The answer to this question lies in the rules of evidence. The Texas Rules of Evidence state that ” [t]hese rules shall be construed to secure fairness in administration, elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay, and promotion of growth and development of the law of evidence to the end that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined.” The Federal Rules of Evidence have a similar purpose.


One issue that seems to come up in voir dire is insurance. The rules state that “[e]vidence that a person was or was not insured against liability is not admissible upon the issue whether the person acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully.” Rule 11. There are circumstances where the existence of insurance coverages is allowed in evidence, but the general assumption by Defendants is that the jury is more likely to find liability if they know the Defendant is insured. Watch the lawyers in the courtroom freeze when insurance is mentioned by a witness, jury panel member or anyone. In fact, courts will go so far as to prevent the lawyers from asking if anyone works for an insurance company during voir dire – hence the question “is anyone involved in the claims handling process”.


Character Evidence is another area that can cause a fight “outside the presence of the jury”. Rule 404 provides ” [E]vidence of a person’s character or character trait is not admissible for the purpose of proving action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion”. In other words, the jury should not find that a person or entity is guilty of a wrongful act on a particular occasion on the basis that they had done it before. Character evidence may be admissible if it is a habit or to prove defect in a product where there have been other similar instances.


After an accident, the defendant may take measures that, if taken before the accident, would have made the injury or harm less likely to occur. Although there are circumstances where such measures are admissible, Rule 407 provides that evidence of the subsequent remedial measures is not admissible to prove negligence, culpable conduct, a defect in product, a defect in product’s design, or a need for a warning or instruction. The rationale behind the rule is that you do not want to penalize or prevent a Defendant from doing what is necessary to prevent others from being injured.


Rule 702 seems like a simple rule: “[i]f scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise.” In cases involving experts, huge amounts of time are spent dealing with whether an expert should be allowed to testify. Ultimately, it is up to the jury to decide whether to believe an expert, but case-law requires the Court to act as a gatekeeper and examine the qualifications of an expert and the opinions they are giving before allowing them to testify.

Obviously, there are many Rules of Evidence, but these are examples of areas that may come up during a trial that require the court to dismiss the jury to the jury room so that rulings can be made.

It may seem that the Court and lawyers are wasting the jury’s time or hiding evidence from the jury, but what they are doing is following the rules in an effort to see that “the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined.”  In you are on a jury, simply follow the Court’s instructions, require the other jurors to do the same, and justice should be served.

If you are in need of an experienced  Personal Injury or Labor and Employment Lawyer in East Texas or local counsel in Gregg County or the Eastern District of Texas,  please contact Chris Jones or Michelle Jones, Jones & Jones, Attorneys at Law, at 888-236-4878 or contact us by email.

About Chris Jones

Chris Jones is a Personal Injury lawyer and Wrongful Death lawyer with over 27 years of experience. Chris Jones is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

%d bloggers like this: