If you have been injured through the actions or negligence of someone else, finding the right forms of evidence is essential to promote the best outcomes for your legal case. Understanding the various types of evidence will help you and your personal injury lawyer to make the most effective case for damages and compensation. Here are some of the most important types of evidence for your personal injury case and some ways in which this evidence can be gathered for use in and out of court.
Personal Injury Physical Evidence
Physical evidence consists of objects and items that were involved in the incident under investigation. For a car accident, this could be the vehicles involved in the accident, the clothing worn by those injured or damaged parts of the vehicles physically brought into the court. Evidence for other types of accidents may include broken tools, faulty equipment and even scars incurred as a result of the injury. These types of physical evidence are known as tangible evidence and are distinguished from photographic evidence, which is usually easier to present in the courtroom setting.
Photographs of the physical evidence are often used in court as a substitute for the actual items themselves. In most cases, these photos must be taken as soon after the accident occurs as possible. Photos of damaged vehicles, the injuries incurred, the scene of the accident or the conditions that contributed to the injury are often used to explain to the judge and jury how the accident happened. For example, photos of the location of a car accident and the surrounding area can be used to explain the accident more easily and to assign fault in these cases.
Videos may also be used as a form of photographic evidence that can be presented in court to provide a clear picture of the environmental conditions involved in the accident. This can provide information on the contributing factors to your injuries and will make a real impact on jury members and judges regarding the extent of damage to your property and the severity of your injuries.
There are two general types of witness testimony:
- Witnesses who were on the scene at the time of the incident or injury can provide their version of what they saw and what transpired. For auto accidents, the individuals in the vehicles may be called to give testimony in court about their own experiences. Witnesses who were not involved but who saw the accident or injury are typically more credible and valuable sources of evidence than those who were directly involved.
- Expert witnesses may also be called to provide testimony. These individuals are authorities in their particular fields, which may include engineering, medicine, science and other areas relevant to the case in question. For car accidents, engineers can often provide added insights into how the damage to vehicles and the injuries occurred. Medical expert witnesses are qualified to explain how certain injuries could have been caused. These individuals must have the right qualifications to provide compelling testimony in court and to be accepted as experts in their field. Your attorney will usually identify and obtain the services of expert witnesses if they are needed for your case.
Witnesses can provide valuable support for your claims and can help you to make your case in court and in negotiations with insurance companies or other individuals. In some cases, depositions or video testimony may be used to introduce information without requiring the presence of the witnesses.
After a collision or accident in which an injury has occurred, seeking medical treatment as soon as possible is a good way to preserve evidence for use in any later legal proceedings. X-rays, medical reports and medical bills for emergency treatment and rehabilitation are among the most commonly presented types of medical evidence. In certain cases, medical evidence can also be physical evidence. This is especially true if the incident has created permanent scarring or other evidence of the injuries sustained.
It is important for you to keep all records of the medical procedures and treatments you receive along with the bills for those services. Any communications with insurance companies, healthcare providers and the other party in the accident should also be preserved in case they are needed to support your case. Your attorney will organize this information and use it as the basis for your claims in and out of court.
Even if you do not feel as if you have been injured in an accident, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is critical to protect your health and to preserve your legal rights. Some injuries are not obvious immediately. If left untreated, however, they could pose real threats to your health. Heading to the emergency room or visiting your doctor for a complete check-up is the best way to avoid lasting health issues and to document any injuries you have incurred.
Police reports provide the official version of the events that caused or led up to an accident or injury. For auto accidents, the law enforcement officer assigned to the case will outline what he or she believes happened and will sometimes issue citations or tickets to the person they feel was most at fault. Calling the police after an injury accident is essential to make sure that there is an unbiased report on what happened.
Even if the police report does not provide definitive information on who was to blame for the accident, it can provide added help for you and your attorney in nailing down some of the most important and basic facts about what happened. The police report serves as the baseline from which you and your lawyer can build your arguments to achieve the highest compensation for your personal injury case.
Some of the most compelling evidence for injury cases is classified as circumstantial. For instance, cell phone records can be subpoenaed to show that another driver was texting and driving right before or at the time of an auto accident. If the driver was in the car alone, this constitutes direct evidence. If, however, the driver had a passenger in the car, the presence of text messages at the approximate time of the accident is considered circumstantial. In these cases, the content of the texts may be evaluated to justify an assumption that the driver was distracted by their mobile phone at the time the accident occurred.
Preserving Personal Injury Evidence
Spoliation of evidence occurs when an individual in possession of evidence accidentally or deliberately destroys or alters that evidence when they have a duty to retain it. This can occur in a number of ways:
- Businesses can sometimes destroy video evidence related to an accident by accidentally or deliberately overwriting or deleting it.
- Photographic evidence can be discarded by plaintiffs, defendants or other parties to prevent damage to their case.
- In defective product cases, failing to keep the product in question could be regarded as spoliation of evidence that would make it difficult for the plaintiff to prevail.
- Deleting cell phone records or computer data could also be categorized as spoliation of evidence if those records or data are relevant to the court case.
If you know of any evidence related to your personal injury claim, your attorney can send a spoliation letter to the individuals or business entities who are currently in possession of this evidence. This will serve as a notice that the evidence must be preserved and presented in court upon demand.
The Basics of Investigation and Discovery
During the investigation phase of your case, your attorney will typically ask you for all the documentation and information you have about the accident or injury. Any videos, photographs and potential witnesses will also be evaluated by your attorney to determine whether they will be useful to your case. This will guide the general direction of your legal arguments and will help you
In some cases, a qualified investigator may be enlisted to help find more information and to identify any additional witnesses that can provide support for your version of events. The information collected during this fact-finding phase will provide the foundation for the arguments made in court or in negotiations with other attorneys and insurance company representatives.
You may also be asked to return to the scene of the accident to take photographs or video of road conditions, speed limit signs, broken sidewalks and other factors that could have contributed to your injuries. This can be useful in establishing the particulars of the accident scene and demonstrating the negligence or culpability of the defendant in your case.
The discovery phase is defined by the exchange of information between your attorney and the legal team on the other side of the case. The information provided to your lawyer by the defendant’s team will be evaluated to determine the most effective counters to arguments made by the defense. This will allow your attorney to fine-tune the witness list and evidence to be presented in your case.
The evidence collected during the investigation phase by your attorney will also be provided to the defense team during discovery. In general, all the evidence that will be used during the case must be shared with defense attorneys and provided to your legal team. This ensures that both parties can present the best argument they can to defend or pursue their case.
The Right Representation for Personal Injury Cases
If you have been injured because of the negligence or direct action of another person or a business, the personal injury lawyers at Haney Paschal & Romoser, P.C. can provide you with the legal representation you need to recover medical expenses and other losses associated with these injuries. We work with you to determine the best approach to your case and to achieve the best possible results for you. Our personal injury law firm has more than 30 years of combined legal experience and has built a solid reputation for success on behalf of our clients. To schedule a free initial case consultation with our team, call Haney Paschal & Romoser, P.C. today at 936-295-3712. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you.