After a car accident, in order to best build your case for an insurance claim or injury lawsuit, it is extremely important to gather as much evidence as possible. The more documentation you have to support your claim for damages, the more likely you are to obtain a settlement or verdict in your favor. This article addresses the importance of evidence in a car accident claim and the types of evidence you should gather.
The insurance companies know that the burden of proof in obtaining recovery (compensation) after a car accident case lies with the person seeking damages. That means that the injured party -- called the plaintiff -- bears the burden of establishing that the other driver was at fault in causing the car accident and that the plaintiff suffered injury and damages.
In order to meet the burden of proof, it is necessary that you substantiate all of your claims with evidence that supports your version of the events leading up to the accident as well as your claims for physical injury and lost wages. Evidence can come in many forms and may include documents such as medical bills and records, photographs, and witness statements or testimony.
Even a seemingly minor car accident can be a disorienting experience. After an accident, check on the well-being of your passengers, as well as any other drivers, and call for paramedics if there are any obvious injuries.
Regardless of the severity of the accident or injuries, call the police and wait for a report to be made. Having a police report created at the time of the accident is extremely important in ascertaining which driver is legally at fault.
Take the time to gather all pertinent evidence at the scene of the accident. You should obtain the name, address, driver's license number, vehicle plate numbers, and insurance information from all other drivers involved. Find out whether any of the drivers were driving for their employer at the time of the accident, and if so, obtain the employer’s name and contact information.
In addition, gather the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident. Ask if anyone has taken photographs and if so, ask for copies of that evidence. If you have a camera -- even a cell-phone camera -- take photographs of the accident scene.
Pay close attention to the condition of the vehicles involved, the location of traffic signals, and any obvious skid marks or other evidence. You may also want to take notes of any statements made by the other drivers or witnesses.
In most car accident cases, the most significant portion of recovery is related to compensation for damage to personal or physical property. Gather all records related to car repairs and car rentals. This includes documentation of any recent repairs or improvements made to your car shortly before the accident. For instance, if your car was totaled in the accident, you can increase the value given to your vehicle if you have proof that you recently replaced all four tires or components of the engine. Accordingly, if applicable, you should gather this type of information and accompanying receipts.
Probably the most important component of evidence gathering in car accident cases relates to documenting physical injuries. After a car accident it is extremely important to obtain timely medical treatment for any injuries and to inform all treating health care providers that you were involved in a car accident.
Keep a journal with information relating to healthcare appointments, including who you saw, the treatment obtained, and whether you were required to pay any money at that particular visit. Once you have completed all treatment, and a doctor has released you as maximally improved, ask for a complete copy of all of your medical records. You should specifically request copies of treatment record and diagnostic images such as x-rays or MRIs. In addition, gather all medical bills from each and every healthcare provider. You will also want to gather any information related to lost wages.
If you have filed a personal injury lawsuit, you will be able to obtain information from the at-fault driver which may be useful evidence at trial. One way to do this is through the use of car accident interrogatories -- written questions that the other party must answer, under oath, when a specified period of time. You can use interrogatories to gather evidence for your case, such as learning of the defendant’s conduct prior to the accident (was he or she drinking? Playing with a cell phone?).
You can also gather evidence through a deposition, which is out-of-court testimony, given under oath, and generally recorded and transcribed by a court reporter. Depositions not only may lead to important evidence, but may also be introduced as evidence at trial in order to impeach that witness (ie., lower his or her credibility in the eyes of the jury) should the trial testimony differ significantly from the deposition testimony.
Take the time to gather as much evidence as possible after a car accident. The more documentation and information you have, the stronger your case will be, and the more likely you will obtain a satisfactory resolution to your claim.