Evidence in Injury Claims
The outcome of every trial whether it involves an accident or defective product is dependent upon the evidence that is presented during the trial. Often this evidence consists of damaged vehicles (or parts thereof) or items that have failed and/or were not used properly, such as motor vehicle equipment like brakes or tires. In order to best position a personal injury for claim for future success, it is critical to secure the key pieces of evidence as soon as possible so that the evidence is not lost, destroyed, or deteriorated between the time of the incident and the time of trial.
Why is Evidence Preservation So Important?
In a personal injury case, the victim may be entitled to economic damages for lost wages, medical bills, and other costs. The victim may also be entitled to compensation for non-economic damages, such as “pain and suffering,” inconvenience, scarring, disfigurement, deformity and emotional trauma.
However, before a victim receives compensation, it must be proven that the defendant was negligent or “at fault.” For instance, in a car accident case, the defendant may be either the driver of the car who caused the accident or the manufacturer of the vehicle, which was defective.
Records kept by the defendant often can help prove negligence. The law allows the victim access to these records in many cases; however, the victim must take legal steps to preserve the records and ensure they are not destroyed before they can be reviewed.
How Evidence is Often Handled by Insurance Companies & Auto Manufacturers
Insurance companies rarely do anything to preserve the evidence left behind at an accident scene unless it is beneficial to them.Moreover, potential defendants like trucking companies and auto manufacturers have put together first response teams that are experts at turning evidence to their advantage. I witnessed these maneuvers first hand when I used to work for Insurance Companies.
What Type of Records Should Be Preserved?
Each motor vehicle accident presents its own set of facts and circumstances; however, these are some of the most common types of records that should be preserved:
- Maintenance records — If a defective vehicle caused the driver to lose control, or contributed to the accident, maintenance records could help prove or disprove such a claim.
- Medical records — Prescription Medications – If the defendant was taking them, then they could have caused drowsiness, which might have contributed to the accident.
- Cell phone records — Virginia forbids texting while driving and also bans cell phone usage by school bus drivers and drivers under the age of 18 while driving. Cell phone records could show that a driver was texting or talking on a cell phone, which could provide the basis for a distracted driving claim. Virginia Law allows for cell phone crash data collection.
- Log Books — If the defendant is a truck driver, log books may show how long the driver was behind the wheel prior to the accident. If the driver is in violation of federal regulations, then such may be the basis of a fatigued driver negligence claim.
- 911 Calls — Calls to 911 are recorded, however they are destroyed after a relatively short period of time. A call to 911 could tell what was happening prior to, or just after an accident.
How is Evidence Preserved in a Case?
State laws will determine the legal process for preserving evidence before and during a civil lawsuit. In many cases, the victim’s attorney will need to send a letter to the “at fault” party requiring that party to keep the evidence in a secure fashion or file a motion in court requesting an order to preserve the evidence. Preservation of such evidence can be a financial burden on the defendant (or at fault party) and the victim must usually show that the evidence is relevant and necessary to his/her case (and that without an order to preserve it, the defendant will destroy the evidence.) Having an experienced attorney working for you, who understands the rules and procedures will ensure that any crucial evidence in your case is preserved.
You Need an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured, it is important that you protect your rights by retaining the services of an experienced personal injury attorney. Loss of evidence could very well jeopardize your case.This is an often overlooked fact by many who have been injured and evidence is frequently lost by the time the victim has realized that they need to hire an attorney. Be careful not to let this happen to you or a loved one.
The Parrish Law Firm Personal Injury Accident Attorney works with Northern Virginia residents who have been injured because of another party’s negligence and are looking for fair compensation. Contact us today for a free case consultation or call us at 703-906-4229.
A representative of the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC researched and wrote this article with Mr. Parrish’s consent. If you have any questions regarding the legal implications of what you have just read, please send us your question by clicking here so we can have our attorney review it.
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