Preserving Evidence After an Accident
If you have been injured in an accident, it is unlikely that you are thinking about what evidence you may need to collect in order to preserve and protect your personal injury claim. However, collecting evidence immediately after a car accident can be critical to the overall success of a personal injury claim.
Unfortunately, many accident victims expect or rely on the insurance company, police officers or good Samaritans to gather and protect personal injury evidence after an accident. It is often considered a significant mistake to rely too heavily on others while preserving and gathering accident evidence.
Preserving Evidence at the Scene of the Accident
In more severe accidents, your injuries and pain may prevent you from doing anything after the collision besides waiting on the paramedics. However, if you are in an accident and you are able to safely exit your vehicle to inspect the damage to the vehicles involved, you should also attempt to collect as much evidence as possible.
Photographs at the Scene of an Accident
Pictures and videos of the accident scene are the best way to preserve evidence of what happened, who was involved and where the accident took place. If you have a smartphone with a camera, you can take photos easily. Take photographs of the damage to the vehicles and the license plates, and also be sure to take photographs of the other driver, his or her license, and insurance information.
You should avoid being confrontational when documenting the scene of the accident, especially when photographing the at-fault driver or their vehicle. If the driver is unwilling to provide you with his information, ask the authorities to get involved once they arrive on the scene.
You should also take photographs of the entire intersection or area where the accident occurred and try to give some scope to your photographs by taking wide shots or panoramas. Also, take photographs of where the other driver was coming from and where you were coming from immediately prior to the collision so as to give a vantage point to someone not familiar with the locale. This may be a situation where videos would be more helpful, but start by taking photographs and then switch to videos if necessary.
One of the most important tasks after an accident is collecting information from any potential witnesses. If you speak with someone who says they witnessed the accident, get the person’s name, telephone number (as well as a backup number if possible) and address. If they have a business card handy or a driver’s license that you can photograph, taking photos of those items would be preferable to taking down the information by hand, but use your best judgment. This information may become extremely important to your claim if the police fail to obtain a statement from the witness and the insurance company of the other driver is refuting your version of events.
Also, if any witnesses have stopped their vehicles, you may want to take photographs of their vehicles and license plates. Again, this may prove vitally important if the witness does not provide a statement or if the responding officer takes down the witness’s information incorrectly and you have to track the witness down. If you are in an area where there are shops, stores or restaurants, you may want to take photographs of these establishments in case one of the workers can serve as a witness.
You can never gather too much information or make too many photographs at the scene of accident, so make sure that you have everything you might need to help benefit your claim before leaving the scene. Regardless, please be sure to adequately photograph the damage to the vehicles involved in the accident.
Preserving Evidence of Your Injuries
Photographs of Your Injuries
In addition to taking photographs at the scene of an accident, you should also preserve evidence of your injuries by taking photographs of the affected body parts. Demonstrative evidence of the progression of your injuries can be an extremely effective way of showing how this accident affected you and your body.
You should begin taking photographs of your injuries on the date of the incident and continue until you are fully healed because bruises, lacerations or fractures look very different on the first day than they do several months later. If you have a laceration that needs sutures, you will want to be able to show what the wound looked like before the sutures, with the sutures and after sutures were taken out as scar tissue forms. If you have bruising or burns, you will want to take photographs of the bruise or burn as it goes through various degrees of discoloration. Fractures often require casts, braces, crutches, etc., so take photographs of everything that you were forced to use in order to make a full recovery.
As your injuries progress, it may be useful to have a friend or family member film you during your daily routine. These are called “day-in-the-life” videos, and they can be quite effective in demonstrating your injuries to a third party if they are done effectively. However, you should avoid being overly cinematic with the video or putting on a performance for the camera. This will only distract viewers and/or give them the wrong impression about your injuries, which can be extremely detrimental to your case. Focus these videos on tasks that you would ordinarily complete with ease but now cause you great difficulty because of your injuries.
For example, if you injured your shoulder and you have difficulty lifting your arms, you might have someone take a video of you attempting to brush your hair. Likewise, if you injured your hand and notice that it requires a lot of effort for you to open a can, you may want to have someone document your struggle to complete that task. If you are undergoing physical therapy and the therapist has provided you with home exercises that cause you pain or discomfort, have someone take a video of you completing these exercises for evidentiary purposes.
What Should I Do With All of this Evidence?
Evidence of the accident scene, such as photographs, videos, witness statements and property damage appraisals, should be duplicated, and copies can eventually be included in your demand package.
It is advisable to send all photographs and videos of your injuries together with your demand letter when you have fully healed because the insurance adjuster is likely handling hundreds of claims and may forget about the progression of your injuries if these items are sent piecemeal. It is far more impactful for them to have the complete picture of your recovery period all at once than to have them go through months of data that you have collected and sent to them periodically.