Serious car crashes are incredibly expensive. The hospital bills alone often exceed $100,000. Vehicle repair or replacement, lost wages, and other expenses add thousands of dollars more to the cost.
While they struggle with paying bills and recovering physically, most car crash victims struggle to get better emotionally. That’s not easy to do, because car wrecks cause tremendous emotional distress. For example, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is rather common in these cases. Even months after the accident, many victims avoid certain parts of town or become overly tense when another car gets a little too close.
A Marietta personal injury attorney can obtain the compensation you need to pay bills. An attorney can also obtain the justice you need to get closure and move on with your life. Every legal claim is different, but most of them rest on the five pillars discussed below.
These pillars are important, because the victim/plaintiff must prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Additionally, there is often a direct relationship between the amount of evidence the victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of damages a Cobb County jury awards.
Victim’s Own Testimony
That burden of proof is the lowest standard of evidence in Georgia courts. So, technically, the victim’s own testimony could be enough to prove negligence in a car crash case.
Any kind of public speaking, including court testimony, is very difficult for many people. Some victims have limited English proficiency. Others sustained disfiguring scars or other such injuries in the accident, and they are extremely self-conscious. In still other cases, talking in front of an audience of strangers is just intimidating.
Rest assured that your attorney will help you prepare your testimony. But there may not be a lot of preparation. It’s important that your testimony not sound rehearsed or prepared. The jury needs to hear you recount the incident, and the after-effects of the crash, in your own words. Additionally, most personal injury cases include pretrial depositions. Giving a deposition is not the same as testifying before a jury, but it is similar. So, depositions are excellent dry runs.
Many people do not even know that their vehicle contains an Event Data Recorder. This gadget is like the black box flight recorders in commercial airliners. Capability varies by make and model, but most EDRs capture and record crash-significant metrics like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Brake application,
- Steering angle, and
- Engine RPM.
EDRs are very useful in court. For example, attorneys sometimes partner with accident reconstructionists to make video re-creations based on EDR information. These videos are simple to produce and very effective in front of jurors.
This valuable information is not easy to obtain. An attorney must overcome several legal hurdles to access and download EDR information.
Georgia has very strong vehicle data privacy laws. Generally, only vehicle owners or their authorized representatives can access this information. Therefore, attorneys usually need court orders to obtain these gadgets. Additionally, EDRs are technically sophisticated. A lawyer needs a lot more than a screwdriver and a laptop to tap into an EDR.
That assumes the EDR is available, and unless an attorney acts quickly, that may not be the case. Most insurance companies destroy totally destroyed vehicles a few days after a crash. If that happens, the EDR may be gone forever. To preserve this important evidence, attorneys normally send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty to preserve the EDR and all other physical evidence.
Privacy laws also apply to medical records. Additionally, many hospitals, clinics, and other organizations have an entire bureaucracy that limits information releases. An attorney can often cut through this red tape and get medical records in a few hours, instead of a few days or weeks.
These records give the jury a clear picture of the victim/plaintiff’s injuries in cold, clinical terms. The jury then provides its own emotional reaction to the medical records.
These records often contain more than technical information, X-ray pictures, blood test results, and so on. Doctors, nurses, and other caregivers usually add their own notes to these records. These notes often make comments about the victim/plaintiff’s disposition or appearance on a particular day. The notes breathe life into the records.
Witness Statements and Witness Testimony
These items are different. Witnesses give statements immediately after the crash, and they give testimony during pretrial depositions or at trial. An attorney can use both. Many times, witnesses move out of town and beyond the court’s subpoena power. So, if they are unable to testify at trial, their prior deposition testimony, or even their prior statements, may be admissible.
Something almost mystical occurs when disinterested witnesses take the stand and tell they jury what they saw. Even if they did not see the whole crash, their testimony can be valuable. Additionally, even if their testimony is not identical to the victim/plaintiff’s testimony, it is still valuable. In fact, slight discrepancies on minor details make the witness’ testimony more believable overall.
The police accident report can be the most valuable piece of evidence in a car crash claim, the least valuable bit of evidence, or a combination of both.
Typically, experienced first responders prepare these reports based on the evidence at the scene. That usually includes statements from the victim and tortfeasor (negligent driver), witness statements, and pictures of the scene.
But there may be issues. Even the most experienced emergency responder is not an accident reconstruction professional. Additionally, the investigation is often incomplete. For example, most responders only interview witnesses who voluntarily come forward at the scene of the crash. Finally, the police accident report could be biased. If the victim was killed or seriously injured, the report probably only contains one side of the story.
Connect with a Savvy Lawyer
Evidence collection may be the most important part of a negligence case. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Home and hospital visits are available.