A sworn statement, also known as an affidavit or sworn declaration, is a document that presents facts relevant to a legal proceeding. It’s written in the first person by the individual who is swearing to the truthfulness of the information contained within, also known as the affiant.
This statement is then signed by the affiant and notarized by a notary public, a person authorized by the state to administer oaths and certify documents. By signing and notarizing the document, the affiant is confirming under oath that the facts outlined are true to the best of their knowledge and belief.
There are various types of affidavits, such as those for immigration matters, financial affidavits, and affidavits of service, among others. The type required depends on the legal matter at hand. In the context of a court proceeding, a sworn statement can be used to present evidence or facts in a written format.
How Are Sworn Statements Used in a Personal Injury Case?
In personal injury cases, sworn statements play a vital role. They may be used to provide a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding an accident or injury, to confirm the extent of the injuries suffered, or to provide a witness’s account of an accident or incident.
For instance, a victim of a car accident may give a sworn statement in court detailing the accident, including facts such as the location, time, weather conditions, and actions of the other driver. Likewise, a medical professional may provide a sworn statement describing the nature and severity of the victim’s injuries, their opinion on the cause of the injuries, and the likely prognosis.
Here’s another example:
Let’s say someone slips and falls in a grocery store, sustaining significant injuries. In this case, a sworn statement may be crucial for building a successful personal injury case.
The victim could provide a sworn statement detailing the incident, including what caused them to fall, such as a wet floor without a caution sign, and the immediate consequences of the fall. This statement would include details like the date and time of the incident, the exact location within the store, and any witnesses to the event.
Additionally, a witness who saw the fall could provide a sworn statement confirming the victim’s account of the event. The witness could describe their observation of the wet floor, lack of caution signs, and the fall itself. This could potentially corroborate the victim’s claim and strengthen the case against the grocery store.
A doctor who treated the victim could also provide a sworn statement. This statement would likely detail the nature and extent of the victim’s injuries, their professional opinion on the cause of the injuries (such as a fall), and the treatment provided or recommended. This medical testimony could play a critical role in demonstrating the severity of the victim’s injuries and the link between the fall and the injuries sustained.
In all these instances, the sworn statements serve as essential evidence in a personal injury claim, helping to establish the facts of the case and the resulting damages.
These affidavits can be crucial pieces of evidence, providing concrete, first-hand accounts that may support a party’s claims in court.
What Legal Issues with Sworn Statements Should I Know About?
There are several legal considerations to keep in mind with sworn statements. One important factor is the potential for perjury charges. When you sign a sworn statement or affidavit, you are asserting that the information provided is truthful and accurate to the best of your knowledge. If you knowingly provide false information in a sworn statement, you may be charged with perjury, a serious crime that can result in fines, imprisonment, or both.
Let’s consider the following hypothetical scenario:
Imagine John was involved in a car accident. He was speeding and distracted at the time, which led to him rear-ending the car in front of him. The other driver, Mary, suffered a whiplash injury as a result.
In the aftermath, John decided to give a sworn statement to his insurance company to defend his actions. In this statement, he falsely claimed that Mary had suddenly braked without reason, causing the accident. John’s friend, who was not present at the scene of the accident, also gave a sworn statement corroborating John’s account.
Later, security footage from a nearby building emerged showing clearly that John was speeding and hit Mary’s car without any sudden brake from her side.
In this case, both John and his friend have made false statements under oath. They have knowingly lied in their sworn statements, which is perjury. If their dishonesty is discovered, they could face serious consequences, including fines, imprisonment, or both. John could see a detrimental impact on his insurance claim, and both John and his friend could lose credibility for any future testimonies.
Another issue involves the requirement for notarization. A sworn statement typically must be signed in the presence of a notary public who will verify the identity of the signer and their understanding and willingness to make the sworn statement.
Let’s take the following example:
Imagine Alice, a victim of a dog bite injury, is preparing a sworn statement for her personal injury case. Alice writes down the details of the incident – the date and time, the location, the circumstances leading to the dog attack, and her injuries.
Once Alice has completed her statement, she cannot simply sign it and send it off. The sworn statement needs to be notarized to be legally valid. Therefore, Alice arranges to meet with a notary public.
At the meeting, the notary public first confirms Alice’s identity, usually by checking a government-issued identification card, like a driver’s license. The notary public then asks Alice if she understands the statement she has prepared and if she is signing it voluntarily and without coercion.
Once the notary public is satisfied, Alice signs the document in the notary public’s presence. The notary then stamps the document with their official seal and signs it, thereby notarizing the sworn statement. The statement is now a notarized document and can be used in Alice’s personal injury case as a piece of evidence.
This notarization process ensures that Alice is indeed the person giving the statement and that she understands and stands by the contents of her statement, bolstering the credibility of the statement in court proceedings.
Admissibility and Relevance
Lastly, the statement must be relevant and admissible under the rules of evidence. Irrelevant or inadmissible information could potentially weaken a case or be excluded from consideration.
Here’s an example that should clarify this:
Suppose Bob is suing a construction company for a personal injury he suffered at a construction site. Bob decides to provide a sworn statement about the incident. In his statement, he details the unsafe conditions he observed at the site, the event leading up to his injury, and the injury itself.
However, Bob also includes in his statement his personal opinions about the construction company’s overall business practices, his belief that the company is unethical, and his thoughts about unrelated past lawsuits against the company.
When Bob’s lawyer presents this statement as part of their case, the construction company’s lawyer objects to the parts of the statement regarding the company’s overall business practices and past lawsuits. These parts of the statement, the opposing lawyer argues, are not relevant to Bob’s injury or the specific conditions of the construction site. The court agrees and excludes those parts of Bob’s statement from consideration in the lawsuit.
In this example, Bob’s statement became less effective because it included irrelevant information. If Bob had focused his statement only on the facts directly pertaining to his injury and the conditions at the construction site, his statement might have been fully admissible and possibly more influential in his case.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Sworn Statements?
Yes, it’s strongly advisable to seek the assistance of a lawyer when dealing with sworn statements, particularly in personal injury cases. A skilled personal injury lawyer can guide you in preparing a sworn statement, ensuring it is comprehensive, relevant, and properly notarized. They can also help you understand the potential legal implications, such as perjury charges if the statement is found to be intentionally misleading or false.
If you’re dealing with a personal injury case that requires sworn statements or affidavits, LegalMatch can help. LegalMatch is an online service that can match you with a qualified personal injury lawyer in your area. Start your search for the right lawyer with LegalMatch today.