Even though an injury car accident case is civil and not criminal, evidence is still necessary to prove that you deserve compensation. Without evidence to prove who caused or is liable for your accident and that you suffered injuries and damages, you won’t receive maximum compensation for your car accident case without a car accident lawyer‘s help.
Attorneys Collect Evidence for You
Evidence is critical to the success of a car accident injury claim.
You’ll need it to prove the elements of negligence, which include:
- Duty: The at-fault party owed you a duty of care for example, to drive the speed limit
- Breach of duty: The at-fault party failed to uphold their duty
- Causation: Their breach led to your injuries
- Damages: Your injuries caused compensable damages
An experienced car accident attorney will know what evidence is necessary to establish how the at-fault party caused your injuries and the extent of your damages.
An attorney can:
- Contact witnesses for sworn statements
- File formal legal requests, known as subpoenas, to obtain surveillance camera footage
- Run asset checks on the at-fault party
- Request medical records
- Hire expert witnesses if necessary
- Obtain police or incident reports
The more evidence you have supporting your claim, the more likely you will receive the compensation you deserve. The best way to build the strongest possible case is to seek assistance from a car accident lawyer immediately.
Proving Compensatory Damages
Car accident injury victims can’t just say they suffer damages from the car accident and expect to receive compensation. Injury law requires that they prove how another person’s or party’s actions led to their injuries and damages.
More specifically, they must prove that:
- They suffered damages
- Their damages were the result of the other party’s negligence
- The value of their damages
You must prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence in a car accident case. You must establish that your version is more likely to be true than not to be true. Another way to look at it is that you must show that over 50 percent of the credible evidence is in your favor.
Demonstrating Special Damages
Special damages are usually simple to prove. Save your medical bills and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses such as prescriptions, durable medical equipment, or chiropractic care. Employer and tax records can help prove your lost wages.
You can establish how much the at-fault party owes for your lost income with a letter from your employer.
The letter should detail:
- Your normal pay rate
- How many hours you missed
- Your total amount of lost wages resulting from your injury
If applicable, your employer should discuss lost opportunities for overtime and any paid vacation or sick leave, sometimes known as PTO (paid time off), you used because of your injury.
Even if you’re self-employed, you still have a claim for lost income. You might need tax returns, profit and loss statements, and evidence of lost assignments after your injury to demonstrate your financial losses. Any documentation showing lost income after your car accident can help support your claim.
If you have damaged property, save receipts or written estimates for the out-of-pocket expenses for repairs or replacements.
The Challenge of Proving General Damages
Non-economic or general damages are frequently referred to as “pain and suffering.”
However, they can also include:
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
General damages are certainly harder to prove as there might not be concrete evidence of their existence. Insurance companies are naturally suspicious of general damages since they don’t have any method to measure someone’s distress or suffering.
However, general damages are just as crucial to a car accident claim as special damages. The impacts of general damages can be permanent and even more difficult for victims to deal with than special damages.
Evidence in support of your general damages might include testimony from:
- Your treating doctors
- A mental healthcare provider
- Family or friends who knew you before the accident
Using other cases similar to yours as examples is sometimes helpful in receiving fair compensation for general damages. Showing what victims of similar accidents and injuries receive for their general damages can establish a starting point for negotiating a settlement with an insurance adjuster. Your car accident attorney will have experience doing this.
Types of Evidence in a Car Accident Claim
Law Enforcement’s Accident Report
After a motor vehicle accident, it’s always best to call the local law enforcement agency so they can come to the scene and draft a report. In many jurisdictions, this is mandatory if someone has suffered an injury, died, or if there is property damage.
Law enforcement officers will survey the scene, take pictures and measurements, and speak to all involved parties and any available witnesses. They will use all of this evidence to conclude what led to the accident, how it occurred, and who is responsible. If anyone was speeding or drunk driving, the officer will also note that in the accident report. If the liable party broke the law, this can serve as evidence to support their breach of duty.
Once the report is complete, which can take a few days, you and your attorney can obtain a copy. Although they can still have some errors and omissions, this report provides credible facts that can serve as evidence in a car accident claim. Police reports can help establish who is at fault and why and that you suffered injuries.
Medical Bills and Statements
Receiving compensation for your claim requires a financial paper trail. The insurance company won’t reimburse you if you can’t prove your injury costs.
Types of bills victims frequently overlook as evidence include:
- Mental health care you sought after the accident
- Diagnostic bills from labs, radiology departments, and radiologists
- Ambulance bills, if you received emergency care
- Hospital bills, including those for surgery or inpatient stays
- Ancillary care such as chiropractors and physical or occupational therapists
- Over-the-counter medication and prescription receipts, including the out-of-pocket price
- Medical device receipts for crutches, braces, or wheelchairs
Receipts for replacement services also count as evidence to receive compensation. For example, if you can’t care for your children or participate in routine housekeeping or yard care activities and had to hire someone to complete these tasks for you. You should also retain the proof of any transportation or food expenses related to receiving medical care.
Without medical records, it’s impossible to link your injuries to your car accident. You need medical records to establish a reason for your medical expenses. Follow the protocol of the rendering provider to receive your records.
Under the law, you must consent to obtain copies of your medical records or to send them to a third party, such as a car insurance company or law firm. Your car accident attorney can help you obtain these records.
Nearly every party sending medical bills should have medical records about your injuries. It might be helpful to make a sequential list of your medical care, surgeries, therapies, and treatments since the accident to ensure you and your attorney collect all necessary medical records for evidence.
Photos and Videos
Pictures and videos are essential pieces of evidence in your claim. Today’s technology makes it possible to document accidents in this valuable way. Whenever possible, get pictures or videos at the car accident scene. Include any special conditions in the area, such as a large pothole or a tree blocking the view.
Take pictures and videos of your injuries right after the accident, as they heal, and after they heal. Be aware of the light conditions and use your cell phone’s camera settings to produce an optimal photo. Photographic evidence of your property damage is also helpful.
Detailed notes can make a significant difference in a car accident case. A legal notepad, journal, or even a simple notebook will work. Alternatively, you can also type your notes. Make a thorough narrative of the accident from your perspective as soon as possible. Waiting too long to document your account can cause you to forget or recall details incorrectly.
What Makes a Good Eyewitness?
The liable party’s insurance company is more likely to offer you a fair settlement with a strong witness on your side. But certain witnesses will be more believable than others. If a witness isn’t trustworthy, they won’t help your case.
A good witness::
- Was near the incident when it happened
- Doesn’t have a personal bias or a predetermined opinion about the victim or the property owner
- Doesn’t have a personal or financial interest in the claim’s outcome
- Gives specific details
- Didn’t know the injured person before the accident
- Is someone the victim limits their contact with after the accident to prevent any assumption bias
What Witnesses Should Avoid When Giving Statements
There are several things effective witnesses should avoid when they give statements.
- Guesses. Anything not personally observed is a guess. Witnesses shouldn’t guess, but they can write or talk about anything they observed.
- Opinions. It’s not up to the witness to decide what happened. A statement shouldn’t include arguments, personal opinions, or draw conclusions. A witness should only write or talk about the facts.
- Feelings. A witness statement must remain neutral. Feelings about the outcome of the claim or sympathy for the victim shouldn’t be in a witness statement.
Guesses, personal opinions, or attitudes about the victim, the liable party, law enforcement, or anyone involved in the accident doesn’t add reliable or valuable information to the claim.
Whenever possible, the witness should provide their statement immediately after the incident or as soon as possible. A witness’s memory can easily fade as time moves on. Sometimes their memory can also fill in blanks with details they didn’t observe.
However, resolving a disputed car accident injury claim can take months or even years. Providing an actual statement helps the witness to recall the events of what happened. Statements can refresh their future recollection and allow them to give true, accurate, and precise facts about what they saw.
A witness statement offers a detailed explanation of:
- What they observed
- Specific facts about the accident
A witness statement provides another view of what happened, helps those investigating the accident, and can refresh the witness’ memory if they need to state or testify about what happened months or years after the car accident.
An Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Evidence is crucial to prove all elements of negligence in a car accident claim. An experienced car accident attorney can help ensure that you have the necessary evidence to prove your claim and maximize your compensation.
If you or a loved one recently suffered an injury in a car accident, seek legal help as soon as possible to preserve your rights and options.
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