When you are injured as a result of the fault of another, it's important to have evidence to support your claim. Without it, the insurance adjuster has no basis to pay your claim and will often deny it. In order to get a fair settlement it's important to find and preserve relevant evidence. The quality of your evidence, as well as proper preservation and presentation, can be the difference between a generous settlement and a low settlement or verdict.
What is evidence?
Evidence is those items which prove that another person's negligence (fault) is the cause of your injury. It can take many forms, such as:
A damaged auto, repair estimate or photos
A damaged bicycle or helmet
Torn or bloody clothing
Photos and measurements of an accident scene
The location of debris at an accident scene
Medical reports, autopsy reports, medical records
Witness and party statements
Police Reports, other expert reports
Receipts, invoices, maintenance records
Items, such the foreign object found in food or a defective auto part
It is important to collect and preserve as much evidence as possible to protect your claim. This may not be easy if you are hurt at the scene and not able to take photos or collect information. However there is a lot you can do immediately after the accident. If you are seriously hurt it is best to consult an attorney right away. Your attorney will begin the investigation and collection of evidence while you are recovering from your injuries.
What should you do?
1. Get a copy of any police or store report. Often stores will not give out their reports, arguing that they are "internal" documents. This is where you may require the help of an attorney, to get the names of employees who have information related to your case.
2. Request surveillance footage immediately! Many businesses only save surveillance footage for a short period of time, if at all. If you see surveillance cameras, let your attorney know right away so he can immediately request the footage. A business has a duty to preserve the footage, but only if requested.
3. Collect medical records, estimates, receipts and anything else related to your claim. Don't repair or wash damaged clothes, bicycles or equipment.
4. Get photos. If you were injured by something that can be altered, such as a damaged area of sidewalk or water dripping from a leaky roof, it's vital to get photos before the area is changed or repaired. Often those photos will be the only evidence you have of what caused your accident.
If you sustained visible injuries, such as bites, bruises or lacerations, take photos of these wounds, both while they are "fresh" and while they heal.
Return to the scene of the incident and photograph evidence you may not have noticed earlier. Skid marks, broken glass, a bent guardrail or other similar markings should be photographed.
5. Submit requests for the preservation of evidence as soon as possible, to the party who has control of the evidence. Once the party is on notice that you are asking for the evidence, they are obliged to preserve it. If they destroy it after you have requested it, this is known as "spoliation of evidence." And a party who destroys evidence may suffer the consequences if the case ever goes to trial.
Evidence is key and working with an experienced attorney will greatly improve your chances of prevailing in your personal injury claim. Attorney James Sellers is an compassionate and tireless advocate for injured parties. In one particular case, surveillance footage from a municipal bus was the only evidence that proved the negligence of the bus driver, as the city was trying to place fault on a pedestrian who was unfortunately struck and killed by the bus. Without a thorough investigation and securing of the footage, a family would have lost their case against the at-fault municipality. Experience counts. Count on attorney James Sellers to help you!