The Magnificent Seven of Car Crash Evidence Items
The Great Wall of China, which was built to keep Mongol hordes out of civilized China, contains almost four million bricks. That’s a lot of building material. However, like all other structures in the world, whether big or small, it was built one brick at a time.
Successful car crash claims are much the same. The big picture is important. However, for the most part, these claims are built by placing one bit of evidence on top of another. Eventually, you might not have something as grandiose as the Great Wall of China, but you will have a successful negligence claim.
To a Marietta personal injury attorney, claims are successful if victims obtain fair compensation for their injuries. Normally, that compensation includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additionally, claims are successful if the victim obtains this compensation without going to trial.
Police Accident Report
In most cases, the police accident report is the starting point for the evidence collection process. In a few instances, it’s the ending point as well. Victim/plaintiffs need only establish negligence by a preponderance of the proof (more likely than not). As such, a little evidence goes a long way.
This report, which is generally admissible in court as a business record, usually contains an accident narrative, descriptions of physical evidence in the case, and the names of witnesses. The narrative is probably the most important part.
Emergency responders put together the evidence and then theorize as to how the accident happened. However, even the most experienced emergency responder is not an accident reconstructionist. First responders do the best they can with limited information, but the result is always a limited investigation.
Furthermore, if the victim was seriously injured or killed in the wreck, the narrative only contains one side of the story. This problem is especially bad in pedestrian accident claims.
Hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices usually keep extremely comprehensive records. Generally, these records contain diagnostic and treatment information, in addition to financial data. Sometimes, but not always, medical records also contain information about the victim’s pain level and other such intangible information.
That last item makes a big difference. If the medical bills contain such notations, and the judge determines they are admissible, medical bills are often very compelling. However, if the records only contain cold, hard facts, they may be insufficient to obtain fair compensation. Generally, Cobb County jurors do not award maximum compensation unless they emotionally connect with the victim.
Victims Own Testimony
Something almost mystical happens when people take the stand and tell their own stories in their own words, or at least basically in their own words. This principle applies with eyewitnesses as well, as outlined below.
Victims, especially if they were seriously injured, often make a case. Jurors usually overlook gaps or slight inconsistencies. They blame such issues on the victim’s injuries. Additionally, if insurance company lawyers cross-examine victims too aggressively, the lawyers look very bad in the eyes of the jury. Finally, most jurors expect to hear from the victim, even though the victim is not legally required to testify.
But, as mentioned above, the victim’s own testimony is not always available.
We’ve already touched on the merits of eyewitness testimony. Neutral witnesses with nothing to gain or lose are often even more credible that victims, who are understandably biased.
However, as also mentioned, eyewitnesses are not always competent to testify. Perhaps they weren’t wearing required eyeglasses or had a poor viewing angle.
The EDR is not the only bit of physical evidence in car crash claims. Frequently, skid marks clearly show driving patterns. Additionally, the nature of the physical damage often says a lot about the force of the crash and the angle of impact.
Additionally, crash evidence is often very compelling in court. Obviously, people can draw different conclusions about what the evidence means. But the evidence itself is always admissible.
There’s an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s especially true in today’s vehicle collision claims. Grainy, hard-to-see video footage is a thing of the past. Now, most cameras record images in high definition, even at night.
So, even if a red light, traffic, security, or other camera only caught part of the accident, the evidence can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful result. And, assuming the camera was working properly, the evidence is usually admissible in court.
Event Data Recorder
If traditional evidence sources fail, attorneys can look elsewhere. Electronic evidence is usually a good place to start. Tech-savvy jurors usually give electronic evidence considerable credibility. And, assuming the device was working properly, it’s almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to successfully challenge this evidence in court. Unlike eyewitnesses, computers are never wrong and never biased.
The first EDRs appeared in the 1970s. Today, practically every passenger vehicle on the road has one of these black boxes. Capacity varies by make and model. But generally, EDRs measure and record things like:
- Steering angle,
- Engine RPM,
- Vehicle speed, and
- Brake application.
In other words, the EDR is the complete evidentiary package, at least in many cases. Attorneys might not need much more evidence to prove negligence, especially since the burden of proof is so low.
However, just like the victim’s testimony, EDR information is not always available. Unless a Marietta personal injury attorney quickly sends a spoliation letter to preserve evidence, many insurance companies “accidentally” destroy physical evidence, like the EDR. Additionally, Georgia has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. As such, Marietta personal injury attorneys usually need court orders before they tap into EDRs.
Finally, these devices are technically sophisticated. An attorney needs a lot more than a laptop and a pair of pliers.
Connect with an Experienced Lawyer
Compelling evidence is essential in car crash claims. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.