A Guide to Preservation of Evidence in a Personal Injury Case

July 7, 2024 / RP Legal

You may already have some relevant evidence that can be used to prove your personal injury case. Alternatively, you may have gathered some proof at the scene of your accident that could be helpful when you are seeking compensation. Either way, it is essential that you take steps for the preservation of evidence for your personal injury case so it is there to tell your side of things. Losing crucial evidence can sink a claim or lawsuit.

The best way to preserve evidence is to give it to a personal injury lawyer immediately. Contact the attorneys at Rikard & Protopapas to begin working on the legal process. As soon as you hire us, we can start gathering and protecting evidence on your behalf.

The Importance of Evidence in a Personal Injury Case

In civil litigation, the plaintiff is the one who has the burden of proof to show that the other party was responsible for the accident. This standard is that they must demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the defendant was to blame for their injuries.

A plaintiff meets their burden of proof by presenting evidence that shows what the defendant did and why it departed from the duty of care that they owed you. Without this evidence, you simply do not have a case. If you cannot prove negligence, you do not receive financial compensation.

How to Preserve Evidence for Your Trial

There are two categories of evidence that can be crucial to your claim or lawsuit:

  • Physical and documentary evidence that can be used to prove legal responsibility for your injuries
  • Medical and other evidence that shows the extent of your injuries and the damages that you have suffered

You should take immediate steps to gather anything that you can as soon as possible. If you have pictures of the accident, you should ensure that you have copies in multiple places. Make sure that you have relevant time stamps to show the authenticity of the evidence. Finally, hand them over to an attorney as soon as you hire them.

It is also crucial to see a doctor as soon as possible after your injury. You do not want too much time to pass before you get any diagnosis and medical treatment. If you do, the insurance company may question the source of your injuries and whether you did everything within your power to get prompt medical treatment. You could be accused of failure to mitigate your damages, resulting in a lesser check.

Do Not Try to Gather Evidence on Your Own Unless at the Accident Scene

You may already have evidence in your hands that you need to preserve and protect. Outside of that, you should not be in a position where you have to gather proof for your case. Always hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible after your accident, and leave the job of investigating, assembling and the preservation of evidence to them.

Your attorney knows how to preserve evidence in a way that would allow it to be admissible at trial. They have the skill and experience necessary to get to the bottom of your accident and put you in the best possible legal position.

Preservation of Evidence in the Defendant’s Hands

The defendant may have evidence of their own that could be vital to your case. Unfortunately, the defendant may not always take the necessary steps to preserve this evidence, even though they may face consequences for their failure to do so.

The defendant could have the following that may help your case:

  • Employment records
  • Physical evidence (such as a defective part or vehicle involved in an accident)
  • Treatment records
  • Documents and emails
  • Physical samples

When the defendant fails to preserve evidence, it is known as spoliation. This is a critical issue in civil litigation and one that often needs to be addressed in court.

You have the right to request evidence from the defendant through the discovery process.

However, you may learn at some point that the evidence no longer exists because of something the defendant did. This is a very serious matter.

It is vital that you take immediate steps to direct any potential defendant to preserve all relevant evidence in your case. An attorney can send a litigation hold letter to the defendant practically as soon as you hire them. If the defendant fails to preserve evidence or destroys it, they could face serious consequences in litigation, such as adverse inferences and potential punitive damages.

Physical Evidence Can Be Challenged in Court

If and when your case goes to court, you would need to establish that evidence is admissible in your case. You may need to overcome objections from the defendant, raising reasons why you should not be allowed to introduce certain evidence into your case.

Common issues with evidence include:

  • Lack of relevance to your case
  • The lack of a chain of custody
  • The inability to authenticate physical evidence

A defendant could file a motion in limine, seeking to keep certain evidence out of your case.

Their attorney may object to the introduction of certain evidence at trial. Alternatively, the judge may not allow you to continue to introduce evidence if you cannot establish relevancy or authenticate it at trial.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Columbia, SC

Given how critical the preservation of evidence is in your personal injury case, there is such a thing as waiting too long to hire an injury attorney. If you delay, you could lose the proof you would need to qualify for a settlement.

It is vital that you begin the legal process today. Take the first step to contact the attorneys at Rikard & Protopapas to schedule a free initial consultation. You can send us a message through our website, or you can call us today at 803-978-6111 to receive a free case evaluation. As always, you pay us nothing until the point where you win your case, and you do not owe anything if you do not.

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