You hear a lot about circumstantial evidence on television, radio and in the newspapers. Circumstantial evidence is sometimes used to convict people in criminal cases.
The term "circumstantial" refers to evidence that doesn’t directly, but rather indirectly, proves something. For instance, a footprint in the snow indirectly proves that someone walked there. However, it’s not as good as eye witness testimony that there was someone walking in the snow.
The difference between circumstantial and direct evidence comes up a lot in personal injury cases. Oftentimes accidents are not witnessed and the injured person doesn’t remember specifically what happened. In these cases it’s important to put together circumstantial evidence so that the injured person can prove their case.
For instance, we’re handling a case right now where a semi truck made an unsafe lane change and struck our client’s car. Our client suffered serious brain injuries and cannot remember what happened.
The truck driver alleges that our client attempted to make a lane change and collided with the semi. However, to do so she would have had to move from Lane 1 into Lane 2. It is improbable that she would have made a lane change from Lane 1 to Lane 2 because she was almost home. Our client was only a couple of exits away from where she would turn off Interstate 5. The fact that she was in Lane 1 and so close to her exit provides circumstantial evidence that she would not have been moving into Lane 2 and instead it was the truck that collided with her vehicle.
Sometimes circumstantial evidence lasts a long time. But in most cases (like with the footprint in the snow) it’s fleeting. That’s why it’s important to fully investigate accidents as soon as possible after they happen.