The Cobb County Police Department recently acknowledged that it made “limited changes” because of the coronavirus outbreak. What do these alterations mean to your car accident claim? Will the result be delayed compensation?
Officers will continue responding to criminal emergencies. But officers might not respond to car accident scenes. Response decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, according to a news release. Additionally, certain divisions of the Cobb County Police Department, including the Evidence Collection Division, are either closed or have reduced their hours.
“In such cases residents may, after making an initial 911 call, get a call back from a police supervisor or an officer to make a report over the phone,” the news release stated.
Collecting Evidence in a Car Crash Claim
The police accident report is often the cornerstone of a car crash claim. If this cornerstone is unavailable, Marietta personal injury attorneys must usually look elsewhere for evidence.
Proof is important in a car crash claim. The victim/plaintiff must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Additionally, there is usually a direct relationship between the amount of evidence the victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of compensation the Cobb County jury awards. More on that below.
If the police report is unavailable, Marietta personal injury attorneys often partner with private investigators to examine evidence like:
- Witness Statements: For various reasons, many people do not loiter at accident scenes so they can talk to police officers. However, these people will speak with an injury attorney, if the attorney approaches them. Even if they did not see the entire crash and even if their testimony is unfavorable, they still provide valuable insight.
- Surveillance Video: Red light, traffic, security, or other cameras cover almost every intersection and highway exchange in Marietta. Usually, the footage is high-definition video that’s easy for the jury to see. And, as the old saying goes, a picture is often worth a thousand words.
- Electronic Evidence: Most passenger vehicles have Event Data Recorders. EDRs measure and record vehicle speed, brake application, and other operational metrics. An attorney, often working with an accident reconstructionist, can put this evidence together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Some of this evidence is not easy to obtain and present in court. EDRs are a good example. Georgia has very strong vehicle information privacy laws. So, unless a Marietta personal injury attorney obtains a court order, the owner or custodian can usually deny access.
So, a police report’s unavailability is not necessarily a critical situation. Besides, these reports are sometimes unreliable. Pedestrian accident claims are a good example. Frequently, these impacts kill or critically injure the victim. Thus, first responders only hear one side of the story as they prepare their reports.
Once a Marietta personal injury attorney collects evidence, an attorney must plug that evidence into the proper legal theory.
Defective products, like unsafe tires, cause a few car crashes in Cobb County. Manufacturers are strictly liable for injuries their dangerous products cause. Victim/plaintiffs need only establish cause.
However, driver error causes over 90 percent of the car accidents in Georgia. Driver error usually means either ordinary negligence or negligence per se. Alcohol impairment is a good example of the difference between these two theories.
Driver impairment begins with the first drink. Since alcohol slows reactions and impairs judgement, driving while impaired breaches the duty of ordinary care. That’s the essence of an ordinary negligence claim. Evidence of impairment includes:
- Driver’s previous destination (e. if the driver just came from a bar, it’s more likely than not that s/he had at least one drink there),
- Bloodshot eyes,
- Erratic driving,
- Unsteady balance, and
- Statements made to first responders about alcohol use.
Once again, the burden of proof is quite low. So, a little evidence of impairment goes a long way in court.
If drivers were legally intoxicated, meaning their BAC levels were above the legal limit or they had lost the normal use of their mental or physical faculties, they might be liable for damages as a matter of law under the negligence per se rule. Similar to strict liability cases, victims need only prove cause in negligence per se claims. The same thing could apply if first responders cited the tortfeasor (negligent driver) for speeding, making an illegal turn, or whatever.
On a related note, alcohol-involved crashes often involve third party liability. Bars, restaurants, and other commercial alcohol providers could be liable for car crash damages in some cases. Other vicarious liability theories include respondeat superior employer liability and negligent entrustment owner liability.
In a catastrophic injury claim, like a spine injury, the medical bills alone often exceed $4 million. Other economic damages usually include lost wages and property damage. Lost wages should account for more than lost time. They should also account for lost productivity and lost business opportunities. On a similar note, property loss is not necessarily limited to a car’s Blue Book value. Frequently, family cars have an emotional value which might exceed their financial value.
Victims are also entitled to compensation for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life. No amount of money can adequately make up for such losses, especially in wrongful death claims. But financial compensation is the only remedy available. And, the money helps families carry on with their lives.
Most car crash claims settle out of court. So, to obtain maximum compensation, a Marietta personal injury attorney must eb a good negotiator as well as an aggressive litigator.
Contact a Hard-Hitting 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 do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases.