Steven A. Bagen | April 17, 2023 | Car Accidents
Injury victims are rarely thinking about protecting their car accident cases. They might not even know if they have a case. Your first thought after an injury is usually getting medical attention, going home from the hospital, and dealing with your injuries.
However, once things calm down and you speak to a car accident lawyer, you will have questions regarding how to protect your claim and what evidence you need. Regardless of whether you are filing an insurance claim or lawsuit, evidence is vital. The more evidence you have, the stronger your case.
Evidence and the Burden of Proof
The insurance claimant or injury lawsuit plaintiff will be responsible for showing the other driver was at fault and the damages their careless actions resulted in. You must have sufficient evidence to prove the liable party was more likely than not responsible for causing your injuries. Various types of evidence are available, and you will need every bit of it to prove your physical injury, lost income, and more.
When a crash occurs, responding police officers must complete an accident report. Insurance companies find it challenging to refute the information within these reports, especially when it favors the injury victim. The officer will likely also issue a citation, further proving that the person is at fault. Accident victims can get a copy of the report by visiting the local police station where the accident occurred.
Your car accident lawyer can also request a copy of the police report.
The police report can include:
- A narration of the collision
- Officer’s conclusion of fault
- Diagrams of the collision scene
- Driver statements
If your case goes to court, the police report alone cannot be direct evidence. However, it can be persuasive during the insurance claim process.
Pictures and video are invaluable evidence for your case, presenting an unbiased view of the collision. Pictures of any kind can help. Some examples include pictures of the vehicle’s position, damage to the car, injuries, skid marks, traffic lights, and road signs. Bystanders sometimes take pictures they can provide to your lawyer if you are incapacitated.
Newer vehicles have backup cameras, and now some are implementing dashcams. Additionally, more and more drivers are investing in dashcams. These cameras record anything happening in front of the car and are a vital unbiased account of the crash. It is highly reliable evidence. It can quickly turn the tide in a car accident claim.
Some states have implemented laws regarding the use of dash cams and where they are mounted, so ensure you follow all the laws when purchasing one.
You should look for dash cams with:
- Easy-to-use controls
- Removable windshield mount
When police are filing an accident report, they will include names and information of relevant witnesses. It will also include information for the other driver. Anyone whose information is within the police report can receive a call to testify about what they saw leading up to the crash. Eyewitness testimonies hold exceptional weight because these are third-party accounts of the crash, and witnesses gain nothing by providing these statements.
Work Absence Records
Taking time off work to seek medical attention and recover from an accident proves that your injuries impacted your life. You can lose benefits like bonuses, vacation time, sick days, and advancement opportunities while getting treatment. You must have records that prove the days away from work and any lost benefits.
Pay Stubs and Tax Returns
Pay stubs and income tax returns can help show your income losses. They are also helpful when you are suffering a permanent injury that changes your capacity to work. Changing careers can result in lower income from the injuries you suffer in a collision. An economic expert can review your education, employment history, and tax returns and compare them to your current condition.
Self-employed people will need to use different documentation to prove their lost income. Unfortunately, it is harder to prove these losses because you are not an hourly or salaried associate and you work for yourself. However, you can provide tax returns if they accurately show how much you expected to make this year. You can use bank records, contracts, and purchase orders if taxes are insufficient.
You can provide documents showing client payments or deposits. You can establish averages considering the ebbs and flows of the business. If you instead have contracts or purchase orders for your services, those can also show your expected income for the period you had to take off. Pending purchase orders are also vital. Lost or canceled contracts are critical to showing lost revenue, too.
You need medical records to recover fair compensation. These records outline your medical treatment, diagnoses, and reasonable future losses. Medical providers will issue bills and receipts for paid and due amounts for your care. Having copies of tests, scans, medical procedures, and treatments is beneficial. You need these records starting from the accident date until your last treatment.
Pain Journals and Scheduling Books
Aside from your medical records, which often provide a stoic and factual account of your injuries, you should keep a pain journal. Within your journal, you can discuss the challenges of your injury and how you feel daily. When you go to the doctor, they will ask you where your pain level is for their documentation but on days when you don’t have any visits, write down your pain level in your journal.
Include these items in your pain journals:
- Sleep disturbances and nightmares
- Stress or anxiety related to your injuries or collision
- Loss of ability to care for dependents
- Humiliation from the inability to perform independent tasks
- Depression and feelings of helplessness
You should also have a scheduling book or can use the same journal to document your doctor’s visits. You should write down who you saw, the treatment or care they provided, and if you had to pay anything. The insurance company might ask for dates of services when requesting medical records, and having these journals handy can help.
Property Damage Records
If you have vehicle damage, you need any documents regarding the repairs. Rental car receipts and repair estimates are critical, but there are other documents you can provide. It is evidence that shows where the at-fault driver hit you and outlines the expenses you incurred as a result. Any documentation pertaining to the vehicle’s condition before the accident is also vital because it allows for comparisons.
Receipts for recent upgrades or improvements can increase the value of the car and your compensation claim. You should also provide maintenance records to defend yourself against the insurance company’s accusations. These documents show that your vehicle was in good working order and did not contribute to the accident. Conversely, maintenance records for the other vehicle can show a lapse in maintenance and prove fault.
Clothing, cell phones, and other articles in the vehicle during the accident can be used as evidence to show your losses. Broken laptops and lost personal items will require you to replace them. You must keep receipts for anything you replace or repair after a collision. Provide receipts and a list of personal items you had in the vehicle to your car accident lawyer to include them in your claim.
Cell Phone Records
If there is a suspicion about distracted driving, your car accident lawyer can request cell phone records from the reckless driver. Cell phone records can show the driver was texting, talking, or using data while driving. An investigator must compare the cell phone records to the accident reports to determine the timing. Proof of distracted driving can be complex, but can help with your accident claim.
Medical staff can also execute these chemical tests if the person travels by ambulance from the scene. These test results will prove invaluable to your claim after a drunk driving crash. They might even help you pursue punitive damages and further prove liability.
Expert Witnesses Testimony
Many experts can help your case and provide key evidence to use during court. A medical expert must assess your condition and explain the correlation between your injuries and the crash. They can also provide information about your past and future medical treatment. Their final prognosis will also be vital to calculating a fair settlement.
Depending on the complexities of your case, you can also get expert witnesses like:
- Accident reconstruction specialists
- Economic experts
- Physical therapist
- Vocational therapist
Your car accident lawyer will need a copy of your insurance policy and the other driver’s policy. This is vital evidence because it shows the liability coverage available, which will determine if either policy provides sufficient compensation for your losses. You should also consider underinsured, uninsured, and other policy provisions during compensation recovery.
Vehicle Event Data Recorder
Commercial trucks and some cars have a data recorder, also known as a black box. It collects information like speed, steering, braking, and more. This data is essential to show what you were doing when the accident occurred. It is unbiased and can show that you were driving safely at the time of the collision. Conversely, if the other vehicle has a black box, that data can show fault and negligence of the other driver.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney can request additional information from the other party through interrogatories. You can learn about the person’s actions before the accident and their driving history. These are written questions the other person must answer under oath within a specific time. The answers can lead to additional evidence and other relevant details to your case.
Another litigation effort that can help uncover evidence is depositions. These are out-of-court testimonies that take place under oath. They are recorded and transcribed by a court reporter. Whoever is under oath can provide information that requires a deeper investigation. Depositions are also evidence of the credibility of witnesses.
Using the Evidence to Help Your Claim
Once your car accident lawyer gathers all the evidence, they must use it to establish negligence, show your damages and seek compensation. Before you can prove negligence, you should understand what it means. There are four elements of negligence, and you will need evidence of each. Duty, breach, causation, and damages are the basis of every car accident claim.
Duty of Care:
You must establish a duty of care. The driver owed you a duty to drive safely to prevent injuries. This first element is typically easy to prove because all drivers owe a duty when using public roadways. The police report will suffice as evidence of the location of the collision.
Breach of Duty:
Once you establish duty, you must prove the driver breached it. This is often the highest area of contention in car accident claims. Careless or reckless actions are evidence that the driver was negligent. However, you must have proof to back up those allegations. Cell phone records, back box data, and videos can help prove a breach of duty.
Causation is a vital element in claims. If you suffer injuries in a car accident, you must link it to the collision and the breach of duty. Medical records, pain journals, and more will suffice to prove causation.
You have likely suffered losses from the accident, and now you must prove they came from the crash. You will first need to compile what and how much your losses are. Bills and receipts will be vital pieces of evidence to prove your damages.
Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer About the Evidence Needed for Your Case Today
Compiling evidence and proving negligence is essential to recovering the compensation you need to become whole after a collision. Some victims collect evidence when visiting doctors, but others require legal assistance. Speak to a Gainesville personal injury lawyer about a possible claim and what you will need in an initial consultation.