Gathering Evidence

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Gathering Evidence After a Car Accident in Durham

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If you have been involved in a car accident through no fault of your own, North Carolina provides you the right to recover for the injuries or losses you have suffered. But, to recover you will have to prove both the liability of the other party and your own damages. The best way to prove these things in your claim is through the use of evidence.

Generally, settling your own claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance provider is more favorable when compared to drafting and filing a lawsuit. Settlement negotiations are less formal, less expensive, less time-consuming, and they allow the parties more leeway in determining the amount of recovery. However, if you choose to settle your own claim, you will want to prepare your evidence and your claim as if you were heading to trial. At Wallace Pierce Law, our Durham attorneys have years of experience investigating car accidents and gathering the evidence we need to build your case. We know where to look and who to talk to in order to ensure the at-fault party doesn’t evade liability.

Call for your free consultation at (919) 887-7892, or contact us online. Our professional team of lawyers can collect the evidence you need in your case.

What Does It Mean to Prove My Right to Recovery?

Under North Carolina law, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving to the finder of fact – either the judge or jury – that the events alleged occurred and that these events give rise to a right of recovery. In civil (meaning non-criminal) actions, you will be required to prove each element of your claim by the preponderance of the evidence. “Preponderance of the evidence” means that it is more likely than not, or at least 51 percent likely, that the alleged acts did in fact occur. While this standard is not as stringent as the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal courts, it is important for you to be aware from the start that you bear the burden of proving your claim.

You prove your right to recovery by showing evidence that supports your version of events. All too often in car accidents the only evidence offered is the conflicting testimony of the drivers involved. Each one contradicts the other, and the insurance adjuster ends up denying the claim because of the lack of proof that his or her insured caused the accident. By collecting as much supporting evidence as you can, you can try to overcome this issue, maximize your chances of receiving a favorable settlement and put yourself in a great position in the event that a lawsuit is filed in the future.

What Evidence Should I Look For?

As you prepare your claim, you should look for any piece of information or document that with help prove or support your claim, regardless of how trivial or inconsequential it may seem. The smallest shred of evidence could ultimately be a deciding factor in whether you recover for your injuries.

Eyewitness Statements

It is not uncommon for two drivers involved in the accident to have different versions of the same story. When this occurs, typically it becomes a “he said, she said” type of battle, likely resulting in both insurance companies denying liability. One of the best ways to support your account of the accident is to provide statements from witnesses that corroborate your version of events. Eyewitnesses can provide some of the most valuable evidence there is when it comes to proving your right to recovery. It is important to gather information about eyewitnesses as soon as possible after the accident occurs. It is important to also remember that you are an eyewitness to the accident. Remembering this key fact, make sure to document your account of the accident as soon as possible.

Physical Evidence

Collecting physical evidence of your case will be important in support of your claim. The term “physical evidence” describes anything that is tangible: an object that you can touch, observe, pick up, or hold in your hand. In the context of a car accident, the most common piece of physical evidence is a damaged vehicle. Examples of physical evidence include dents, scrapes, blown tires, or shattered glass. The most important thing to remember about physical evidence is that it is often cleaned up or repaired.

Crash Report

The accident crash report can also be used as evidence in support of your claim. Generally, when the accident that caused your injuries or damage occurs, the police will be called to the scene. Once the officer arrives, they will survey the damage, investigate the scene, and interview any witnesses. After all of that, the officer will create the crash report, in North Carolina known as DMV-349, which will memorialize the relevant details of the accident.

Photographic Evidence

Another type of evidence that can be invaluable to your claim is photographic evidence. Photographs and videos can allow for an easier reconstruction of what occurred and may give the adjuster a better understanding of the scene of the accident, damage to vehicles, and the extent of your injuries. If you can, it’s important that you take plenty of pictures at the scene of the accident.

Evidence of Medical Treatment

Providing evidence of your medical treatment will allow you to prove part of your damages or injuries in your claim. Medical bills and records are used in practically every personal injury claim because they establish a consistent account of when and where you were treated, which providers you were treated by, and what treatment you received. With this in mind, make sure that you seek medical attention after the accident.

Proof of Lost Wages

Depending on the severity of your injuries, it’s possible that you may have missed work either to receive medical treatment or because of incapacity. If this is the case, you are entitled to recovery for your lost wages, provided that you can show (a) that you missed time as a result of injuries suffered in the accident, as well as (b) the value of the time that you missed from work.

To show that you missed time at work as a result of your injuries, you will need a doctor’s note. Make sure that the doctor’s note appears on his or her formal stationery, and that it includes each date for which you are instructed to miss work – and the fact that you are being instructed not to work as a result of your injuries. Make sure not to claim more lost time than what the doctor’s note prescribes.

To show the value of your missed time, you will need to obtain a verification of lost wages from your employer. This verification should include the amount of time missed, the dates you didn’t work, the hours you were scheduled to work on those days, the amount of wages you would have made, and a breakdown of your wages.

Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses typically don’t enter the conversation until a claim becomes a lawsuit, and even then, only when liability is the main issue in the case. Though their testimony is generally informative, expert witnesses tend to be very expensive, and there is no guarantee that their expert opinion will help to bolster your claim. However, there are several types of expert witnesses commonly used in personal injury lawsuits, and in a closely contested case, they could end up making all the difference.

Medical doctors commonly serve as experts testifying as to whether a plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the car accident. Based on their extensive training and expertise, a doctor can offer an informed opinion regarding whether an injury pre-existed the accident or resulted from something other than the defendant’s negligence.

Accident reconstruction experts are generally engineers who use their knowledge and training to recreate the accident and testify as to what the cause of the accident was. Accident reconstruction engineers use every factor available to them, from traffic patterns to the tread on each vehicle’s tires.

Human factors experts come into play when things like reaction time are contested. A human factors expert can testify as to each driver’s perception based upon weather, lighting, angles, etc., the amount of time it would take for the driver’s brain to receive, process, and react to sensory input, and whether the driver could have reasonably taken steps to avoid the accident.

Life care planning experts are often hired to testify as to future damages. If you’ve been catastrophically injured in a way that will affect your day-to-day life for the foreseeable future, it’s likely that the insurance company will disagree with you as to what your future damages are worth. A life care planning expert in this case can be very instructive as to how much your post-injury lifestyle will cost, helping the jury to determine the amount of future damages that you are entitled to.

If you’re at a point in your claim where you’re considering hiring an expert witness, we recommend strongly that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your jurisdiction. If your case is contested enough that expert witnesses are coming into play, it is likely that a lawsuit will be necessary.

Call Our Durham Attorneys

It is important to remember to collect all the evidence available to you, even if some will be more valuable than others. Even if your immediate goal is to reach a fair settlement, you should prepare your claim as if you were going into court. Be reasonable with adjusters. Remember that they are people too, and as such they will be likely more willing to work with someone who is nice and respectful.

Call our Durham attorneys after your car accident to help you collect evidence at (919) 887-7892.

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  • “When my 4-year old son and I were involved in a terrible head-on collision, I wasn't sure where to turn. Wallace Pierce has been great showing me the way!”

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