Key Ways to Preserve Evidence of Personal Injury Accidents
The strength of a personal injury case is largely defined by the strength of the evidence available. In order to prove fault, the person seeking compensation must show proof of the accident and any related damages or injury. Your attorney will need evidence to demonstrate how a person or business was liable or negligent in the accident.
No matter what kind of personal injury case, evidence is fundamental to proving that someone else is responsible for any expenses resulting from damages or injury. You will need to gather proof of fault for a car crash, slip and fall or work-related accident, for example. This doesn’t just mean physical evidence and items for the scene, but it can also include witness accounts, written records, official reports, medical records, work records and property damage reports.
It’s important to act quickly here; it will become more difficult to remember events correctly and track down items and witnesses as time passes. Once you have collected evidence, you will need to preserve it in order to present it to your legal team, the insurance company and in court. Here are some tips on how to preserve these items and help your attorney build a strong personal injury case.
When possible, keep anything that you have from the accident which could help support your case. Try to preserve it in the same condition you found it after the accident. This could include torn or bloodied clothing, dented car parts and damaged personal items. You could also find receipts or parking tickets with a time-stamp from that day.
To preserve this type of evidence, clearly label the items without writing directly on them or sticking notes onto the items. Place them in a sealed plastic bag and attach a note to the outside of the bag. Be sure to write what it is, why it’s important, and an approximation of the time it was issued or involved in the events of the accident. If someone could give further support for your case regarding that piece of evidence, such as a witness, write down their name and a description of their role.
Evidence from the Scene
Return to the scene of the accident as soon as possible. You should take pictures or record video of the context and elements at the scene. Don’t worry about what seems relevant; this will be determined later. Locate and record evidence of contributing factors. Hazards to look out for include things like:
- Uneven pavement,
- Slippery flooring,
- Equipment or machinery blocking the way,
- A defective traffic light,
- Something hindering visibility,
- Overhanging branches,
- Broken stairs or railings,
- Poor signage,
- Lack of safety barriers.
These are just a few examples of factors that may have contributed to an accident.
It’s always recommended that you collect contact information for witnesses. Their testimony is very valuable in personal injury cases and sometime provides details that you didn’t notice. Witnesses are key to supporting your version of the events. They include people who:
1. Noticed the dangerous factors which contributed to an accident,
2. Saw what happened at the moment of the accident, and/or
3. Observed the damages or injury following the accident.
You can help preserve their testimony and get the most detailed account by interviewing them at the scene. Use the tools that you have available in that moment to record what they saw – pen and paper, voice recording or video. Be sure to save witness accounts and make a copy for safe keeping. If this isn’t possible right after the accident, your lawyer can help contact and record witness accounts in the days immediately following.
Details of the Accident
Your memory of the accident and the events of that day will be clearest in the moments following it. As soon as possible, sit down and record as many details as you can remember. These details will help jog your memory when the time comes to argue your case. Plus, you never know in advance what aspects will be key pieces of evidence later on.
Write down all of the contact information for any party responsible for or involved in the accident. Make a description of the context (weather, time of day, visibility), the sequence of events, people involved and witnesses. Clearly copy witness contact information and anything they have said to you. Include other information like driver’s license numbers, license plates and insurance information. Keep all of these written details together in a safe place. Then, make a copy of it and save it in another location – either digitally or physically.
Request a copy of any report by police and/or paramedics soon after the accident. Official reports may have information about the conditions that day, possible legal violations involved or the party at fault. File a copy of the report with your other documented evidence and send a copy to your attorney.
The best way to preserve evidence of a physical injury is to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible after the accident and collect all of the related documentation. You should also take pictures of any visible signs of injury and take a series of updated pictures as you heal. Save two copies of medical records and photographs and let your lawyer know that you have this type of evidence available.
Use a binder to keep track of the care plan and doctors’ reports, as well as medical bills, prescriptions, x-rays and digital imaging, receipts for mobility aids and physical therapy receipts. Include any letters, bills and communication from your healthcare insurance about coverage for treatment related to the injury. Additionally, keep a log or a journal to help record details about appointments, referrals, expenses, and any pain you are experiencing.
You may need to show that you lost wages or had difficulty working as part of the personal injury case. Lost income is calculated as part of the damages that should be compensated for by the person responsible. Preserve evidence of any absence from work or inability to carry out your job that is connected to the accident.
Property Damage Reports
Property damage estimates or documentation of a car’s condition before and after a crash can help support damage claims. Even if a claim’s estimator has taken pictures of the damage, you should also take pictures for your own evidence file. Make a copy of any reports and photographs and provide a copy to your attorney.
Other Types of Evidence
There are some other sources of proof that could help build your personal injury case.
Cell Phone Records
Time-stamped phone records could show a driver was texting or talking while driving, for example. Acquiring a copy of another person’s mobile phone record usually requires a court order.
Emergency calls are recorded and can offer key evidence about the accident and relevant negligence. These phone recordings are preserved for a period of time and can usually be obtained at the request of a lawyer.
Event Data Recorder (EDR)
Some vehicles and commercial trucks carry an EDR on board. These ‘black boxes’ track information about speed and steering. If this type of data is available, it should be collected immediately following a crash.
If a vehicle component involved in an accident has been recalled, documentation of the defect can help prove liability.
Support for Your Personal Injury Claims
It’s important that your legal team starts collecting and preserving evidence of your accident or injury right away. Memories fade, witnesses move away and conditions change as time passes. In Ohio, there is a two-year statute of limitations that constricts the amount of time you have to file personal injury claims. Contact the experienced attorneys by calling (800) 444-1967.