- When you file a claim to recover compensation for injuries you’ve suffered in a car accident, the burden of proving negligence and damages is on you and your attorney—if you don’t present enough evidence, it’s almost impossible to negotiate a fair settlement or prevail at trial as a plaintiff against the insurance company.
- Because it’s not always clear in the early stages of a case which evidence will prove valuable, it’s important to gather as much documentation as possible and preserve any evidence that could diminish over time.
- To ensure evidence is preserved, you or your attorney should take appropriate safekeeping measures as soon as possible.
- If evidence looks different or has changed over time—or worse, when it’s lost entirely—that can open the door to the insurance company questioning its validity and denying your claim.
If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you’ll need to seek compensation for your injuries by filing a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Most insurance claims are settled through negotiations with the carrier—in rare situations, the victim must file a civil lawsuit to get full compensation.
No matter how your case is resolved, however, the most important factor in building a successful claim is strong evidence. Strong evidence is documentation that helps prove how the accident happened (i.e., who was responsible) and how it caused you to suffer damages (injuries and other losses).
If you’re the victim, this burden of proof is on you and your attorney. That means if you don’t gather enough evidence to prove that the other driver was at fault and you suffered damages as a result of the accident, it’s almost impossible to negotiate a fair settlement or prevail at trial as a plaintiff against the insurance company.
Different kinds of documentation can bolster your claim, but not all evidence is equally valuable. Some evidence may establish a crucial element in your case while other types support a minor fact or issue. Because it’s not always clear in the early stages of a case which evidence will prove valuable, it’s important to gather as much documentation as possible and preserve any evidence that could diminish over time.
The more evidence you have supporting your claim, the greater your chances of receiving full compensation.
What Type of Car Accident Evidence Is Effective?
After a car accident, any evidence you can gather from the scene can be crucial in proving the other driver was at fault. Regardless of the severity, you should call the police to investigate the accident and prepare a report. In a police report, the officer typically documents road and weather conditions, vehicle position and damage, the location of traffic signals, statements by the drivers and eyewitnesses, and whether any drivers received traffic citations.
If the police officer determines the other driver was negligent or at fault, that can be persuasive evidence in your negotiations with the insurance carrier. Even when you have a police report to use as evidence, however, it’s still helpful for you to take photos documenting the scene, the condition of the vehicles, skid marks on the road, and any obvious injuries. Video surveillance, 911 calls, and accident reconstruction reports can also help prove what happened at the scene.
Even if you can show the other driver was at fault for the accident, you or your attorney must still gather evidence proving your injuries and other costs to receive compensation. To recover for vehicle damage, you will need to present records related to car value, repairs, and rental expenses.
To recover damages for the full extent of your injuries, you must provide documentation of your medical bills and records as well as any future treatment costs. Don’t forget to document lost wages, diminished future earnings, and noneconomic losses (e.g., pain and suffering, lower quality of life, etc.)—you can’t receive full compensation for the total cost of the accident unless you include all your losses.
Evidence Can Change or Diminish with Time
Because presenting good evidence is essential to proving your case, your attorney will investigate to find every detail and piece of documentation. Once they’ve gathered all the evidence, attorneys analyze it to determine which pieces are relevant and effective in building a strong claim.
Unfortunately, some types of evidence can change or diminish over time. To ensure evidence is preserved, you or your attorney should take appropriate measures as soon as possible. Some evidence may be preserved through photos or storage while other types can be recorded.
Keep in mind that the insurance carrier’s attorneys will investigate your claim and gather evidence too, and if the evidence looks different or has changed over time—or worse, when it’s lost entirely—that can open the door to the insurance company questioning its validity and denying your claim.
Car Accident Evidence that is Likely to Diminish with Time
When investigating a claim, attorneys understand that some types of evidence often change or diminish over time and should, therefore, be documented. For example, cuts, bruises, and scarring may fade or heal before you reach the settlement negotiation or trial stage. Vehicle damage is usually repaired. Evidence from the accident scene, such as debris, skid marks, or dented railing, may be cleared away; natural landscaping may erode.
In addition, a witness’s memory of the events may become less accurate as time goes on. After all, it’s typical for a person to recall a car accident vividly in the immediate aftermath. As weeks and months pass, however, even a seemingly reliable witness can forget details or become confused, and the insurance company’s attorneys will use those inconsistencies to discredit the witness or undermine your case.
Effective Ways to Preserve Car Accident Evidence
You or your attorney should find the most effective way to preserve each piece of evidence so that you can use it to build a strong car accident claim. Some evidence from the accident scene, such as skid marks or damage to the artificial or natural setting, can be preserved simply by taking photos or videos.
Other evidence, such as physical injuries and property damage, should be documented through bills and other records. However, photos of your injuries and vehicle damage can still be helpful even if you collect records of all your medical treatment and car expenses.
Audio or video recordings of eyewitness statements—or even your own observations—at the accident scene can be important pieces of evidence as well. If you don’t take recordings, try to write down statements you hear or things you notice about the conditions at the scene. A journal can be an effective way to keep track of relevant information about the accident and your related costs.
You may need your lawyer to preserve evidence by safekeeping or seeking a protective order from the court. In addition, your lawyer can uncover important evidence from the other driver and eyewitnesses through depositions (out-of-court testimony given under oath and recorded by a court reporter). Depositions preserve witness statements and may be introduced as evidence at trial to challenge the credibility of witnesses if their version of events changes over time.
Evidence that is Unlikely to Change with Time
While some types of evidence change over time, other forms stay solid and consistent. For example, police reports, 911 calls, medical records relating to your injuries, and property damage/repair records are unlikely to change unless new information is added.
Fortunately, these pieces of evidence are often the most powerful when building a legal claim, which is why you should always call the police when possible and keep track of all bills and documents after you’ve been involved in a car accident.
Common Questions About Car Accident Evidence
Can the vehicle and its damage serve as evidence?
Yes, the damage to a vehicle can help explain how an accident happened as well as increase the amount of compensation you receive for your insurance claim.
Once preserved, can the evidence be fixed?
Yes. After you have documented the property damage for your claim, you should have your vehicle either repaired or replaced.
If a victim is injured at the accident scene, how do you recommend collecting evidence?
As soon as you are physically able, make sure to write everything down or take voice notes regarding what happened in your accident. Do your best to remember the names and faces of those present and write down the contact information of witnesses. If you can, take pictures or videos of the scene. Most importantly, call the police immediately and keep records of all your medical appointments, bills, and treatment.
Can photos effectively preserve evidence of injuries?
Yes, clear photos can be effective evidence helping to prove injuries in your car accident claim. Make sure you can accurately describe the injuries documented in the photos, such as bruising, swelling, or cuts, because you may be cross-examined on their contents.
What is the best evidence?
Generally, the best evidence is a clear video showing how the accident occurred. Because this type of evidence is rarely available, however, you or your attorney should gather any documentation you can to prove your claim, including eyewitness statements, police reports, 911 calls, and photos of the vehicles and accident scene.
Consultations Are Free at The Millar Law Firm
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney regarding evidence and other questions you may have about your claim. Our lawyers do the work hard of collecting and preserving evidence so that you can focus on healing. Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.