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Spousal Testimony In Personal Injury Suits

The relationship between married people is considered important both in society and under the law.  The law seeks to protect the marital relationship in many ways, one of which is through the protection of confidential information that is sometimes shared between married couples.  This protection is important to a person who may be involved in a civil or criminal case, where he may have confided something to his spouse that may be detrimental to his case at trial.

There are two main ways in which a spouse’s testimony against his or her spouse can be prohibited or restricted in a civil or criminal trial. These are through spousal immunity and spousal privilege.

Under Ohio law, people who do not wish to testify against their spouses do not have to, and can claim spousal immunity in order to avoid being called as a witness.  A spouse who does not wish to testify against their partner is considered an incompetent witness, and cannot be forced to testify by the court.  However, the spouse in this situation can voluntarily waive this incompetency and agree to testify against his or her spouse.

Spousal privilege protects the confidential communications of a married couple.  If a person shares information with a spouse in confidence, the spouse who hears the information cannot later be called to testify as to the information confided.  The exception to this protection is if the information was shared with a third party present who is competent to be a witness.  This means that if the communication was shared in front of the couple’s infant child, spousal privilege would likely apply.  However, if the couple is sharing the information in front of an adult, there is less expectation that the information would be kept confidential, and the spousal privilege would not apply.  The spousal privilege applies even after a couple divorces, whereas the spousal immunity only applies to married couples.

Ohio does not recognize spousal tort immunity anymore, and therefore spouses can sue each other for tortious actions such as assault and battery.  In personal injury cases brought by one spouse against the other, the spousal immunity discussed above (in which a spouse is an incompetent witness against the other) does not apply.  Additionally, the spousal privilege also does not apply and the spouses may testify against each other as it relates to the subject matter of the personal injury lawsuit, even if the information was shared in confidence.

In personal injury cases, the testimony of the injured party can be important in providing crucial evidence to the judge or jury to aid them in reaching the truth in the case.  Additionally, in a case where one spouse causes another personal injury, society’s need to protect the marital union is overridden by a need to ensure justice is served.

Contact a Columbus Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been injured as a result of another person’s intentional or negligent actions, including your spouse, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your claim to ensure you get compensated for your injuries. Contact Columbus personal injury attorney Ed Schottenstein of the Schottenstein Law Offices at (614) 467-8474 for a free and confidential consultation today.