Preserving Evidence after a Personal Injury
Proper evidence preservation is often the key to a successful personal injury claim. Preserving evidence involves an extensive process of gathering, identifying, labeling and organizing information that will prove your case and help successfully negotiate your personal injury claim. Strong and compelling evidence can make the difference between an average personal injury settlement and a substantial one.
When you are looking for evidence in a personal injury case, you are looking for proof of negligence on the part of the individual or entity who you believe is at fault. For your claim to be effective, your evidence must definitively demonstrate that the actions of the at-fault party caused your injuries, damages and losses.
The Importance of Physical Evidence
It is highly unlikely that an insurance adjuster will offer you a settlement unless you can clearly show that the at-fault party was responsible for causing your injuries. Physical evidence is the best kind of evidence that can be used to demonstrate fault in personal injury claims. Examples of physical evidence include:
- Photographs: It is always a good idea to take photographs of the location where the injury occurred. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, you should get photos of the vehicles, their position on the roadway and traffic in the area. If you tripped and fell on a broken stair, you should get photos of the dangerous condition that caused your fall and your injuries. Photographs are best obtained right then and there because the scene of your accident could change dramatically even in a day or within a few hours.
- Physical objects: It is crucial to save items from the scene. For example, if you have been bitten by a dog, make sure you save torn and bloodied clothing. If you have been injured in a bicycle, do not repair your damaged bike. If you have been injured in a car accident, preserve the vehicle unaltered. An expert examining it later, for example, may be able to determine if a vehicle defect caused your crash and/or injuries. Without critical pieces of critical evidence, it may become impossible to make any concrete determinations in your case.
- Eyewitnesses: Independent third-party witnesses can provide powerful testimony in personal injury cases. Juries tend to believe them because they have no personal or financial interest in the case. Insurance claims adjusters also know that if the case ends up in court, an independent witness for a victim can significantly influence a jury. It is important that you gather witnesses' contact information quickly before they leave the scene. Failure to do so will make it harder and harder to find them with every passing day and could weaken your claim.
- Incident reports: These are an important component of any injury claim. For example, if you have been injured in a car accident, it is important that you remain at the scene and ensure that your account of the accident gets in the police report. If you slipped and fell at the supermarket or at the mall, make sure you file an incident report with the store manager or property manager and obtain a copy of that report. It is also important that you write down your own narrative of the accident as soon as possible - when it is all still fresh in your memory.
- Medical records: Your medical record relating to the incident begins from the time you seek emergency treatment for your injuries. It is important that you save all details and bills relating to doctor office visits, hospitalizations, diagnostic reports such as x-rays and blood test results, treatments such as physical therapy and any future or ongoing treatment recommended by your doctor. Do not give anyone access to your medical records except for your own injury lawyer who is looking out for your best interests.
Collecting and preserving evidence is no easy task. While some evidence may be relatively easier to obtain, other evidence may present a bigger challenge. Your personal injury lawyer can take the necessary action to force an at-fault party not to destroy crucial evidence or items that could be relevant or important to your case. A spoliation letter is a letter sent by an attorney to an at-fault party in anticipation of a lawsuit.
Such a letter puts the defendant on notice warning them not to destroy or tamper with evidence. Ignoring a spoliation letter or failing to comply with it can subject the at-fault party to fines and even criminal charges. If you have been seriously injured in any type of accident, it is important that you retain the services of a personal injury lawyer who can immediately send a spoliation letter preserving important evidence, which may otherwise be lost or destroyed.
As you gather evidence, it is important to keep it organized in a manner in which you can easily access each piece of evidence when negotiating your claim with the insurance adjuster. In a traffic accident case for example, mark different exhibits including photographs, police reports and other evidence. If you are severely injured in an accident, your personal injury lawyer can help you organize the evidence and present them to the insurance adjuster.
Contacting an Experienced Injury Lawyer
The experienced California personal injury lawyers at BISNAR CHASE have a long and successful track record of helping injured victims obtain fair and full compensation for their injuries, damages and losses. We understand the major emotional and financial strain that victims and their families face in the aftermath of an accident. Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you do not have to pay any fees or costs until we win for you. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident or as the result of a defective product, please contact us at (949) 203-3814 for a free and comprehensive consultation.