Let's face it, after an automobile accident or slip and fall, an injured person is not thinking about preserving evidence. The first few days after an accident are usually the hardest on you emotionally and physically. It may be tempting to retreat from everyone and relax in bed. However, if you have a potential personal injury claim, it's extremely important that you document your injuries and collect evidence from your accident.
It's important that you do this as soon as possible after an accident because circumstances can change and memories begin to fade. Accident scenes can be altered, memories begin to diminish and evidence may be misplaced over time. The quality and quantity of your evidence can mean the difference between an average personal injury settlement and a substantial one. If you've been involved in an accident that was caused by the recklessness of someone else, here's what you need to know about preserving evidence in a personal injury case:
What Evidence You Should Keep
One of the most important steps you can take after an accident is to make sure that the physical items from the incident are preserved. If you were in a car accident, make sure you take pictures of the scene, your injuries, and any damage to your car. If you received medical treatment, it's important that you get a copy of all medical records relating to your treatment. Also, keep copies of personal damage estimates and repair records, and obtain a copy of any and all police reports.
If a faulty product injured you, make sure you keep the item in the same condition it was in when the accident occurred. If possible, keep all written instructions, warning labels, and packaging that came with the product.
In a medical malpractice or birth injury case, it's important that you obtain copies of all medical records that pertain to your medical treatment as well as any related second opinions you received from other health care providers. If your injury is visible, make sure you take pictures and keep them on hand.
Examples of evidence include:
- Medical records
- Witness statements
- Police and incident reports
- Torn and damaged clothing
- Public records
- Your own written narrative of what happened when the accident occured
Preserving physical evidence requires work, and sometimes, it can be difficult to get the evidence you need. For example, if you're seriously injured in a car accident, you may not be able to take pictures of the scene of an accident. If you're injured in a slip and fall accident at a grocery store, you may have a hard time obtaining security camera footage of the incident. In cases such as these, do your best to collect as much evidence as possible.
Make Sure to Take Pictures
Pictures are one of the most important pieces of physical evidence from an accident. Car accidents, slip and fall injuries, assaults, and dog bite cases present opportunities to preserve photographic evidence at the time of the injury. Try to photograph your injuries as close to the time of the accident as possible. Don't worry if the images are graphic. These types of images will only help your case. Also, photograph your injuries several days after the incident and as your injuries begin to heal. Sometimes, it may take time for bruising and swelling to occur, and other times an injury may get worse before it gets better. All of these things are important pieces of evidence, so do your best to take pictures along the way.
Here are some things you should photograph:
- Abrasions, lacerations or contusions to your body
- Damaged clothing, especially if it's bloody or torn
- The scene of the accident and the surrounding area
- Damage to personal property
- What caused your injury
Preserving evidence is only one step of the process. After you've collected and preserved evidence, it's important that you meet with an experienced personal injury attorney. Your attorney will be able to look at the evidence you've gathered and help determine if you have a claim against the person who caused your accident.