When you suffer injuries in a personal injury accident, such as a car, truck, or premises liability accident, you cannot assume that the insurance company for the negligent party will automatically pay you the compensation that you deserve. Even if the other party’s negligence and the seriousness of your injuries seem pretty clear cut to you, the insurance company will conduct an investigation and most likely find a reason to deny or reduce your claim. To ensure that you receive what you are entitled to, you must anticipate that the insurance company will take this approach, and you and your lawyer will need to collect the evidence necessary to prove your right to compensation.
Evidence You Will Need in Your Personal Injury Case
As the plaintiff in the case, you need to keep in mind that you will have the burden of proving your case in court if your claim does not settle. While your own testimony about how the accident occurred, your injuries, and the compensation that you are owed is important, you need other evidence to support your claim. This evidence can also help convince the insurance adjuster that you deserve the settlement that you are asking for. Here are types of evidence that you should collect:
- Police report. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, you will need a copy of the police report to help figure out information about the accident and open other avenues for the discovery of important evidence. Police reports can can provide helpful information for your case, such as contact information for the negligent driver and witnesses, the officer's observations concerning the accident, and whether any citations were issued.
- Accident report. Accident reports are also generated after motor vehicle accidents. Accident reports in motor vehicle accident cases will include information about the drivers involved, their respective insurance, and information about the accident itself. If another type of personal injury accident caused your injuries, you will need a copy of the accident report filed with the negligent business or property owner. The report can help establish when and where your accident occurred and can have important contact information for the negligent party, the insurance company, and witnesses.
- Photographs and videos. You should take pictures and video of the accident scene if possible. In a slip and fall or similar accident, you should take pictures of the location of the accident and what caused it. If you were hurt in a motor vehicle crash, you want to take pictures of the scene, damage to both vehicles, weather conditions, and anything else that could be helpful to your claim. You also want to take pictures of your injuries right away and over time, if they continue to develop or worsen. For example, bruising often does not appear until hours or days after accident.
- Insurance policies. Obtaining copies of the insurance policies for any potentially liable parties is critical to determining whether there is insurance coverage for your injuries. This will also show how much insurance coverage is available to pay you what you are owed. Keep in mind that you will also want to review your own insurance policies. Your vehicle-related insurance policy may provide supplemental coverage in the event the negligent driver's coverage does not cover all your damages. Additionally, check your home owner's insurance coverage and other policies to see if they provide umbrella coverage. In cases of catastrophic injury, you need to know the full extent of all your coverage.
- Rental agreements and deeds. If you were hurt at a business or another property, you will need to review the deeds and other ownership documents to determine who owns the property. In addition, if a business or other entity leased the property where you were hurt, you will have to review the lease to determine whether the landlord or tenant was responsible for the hazardous condition that caused your accident.
- Witnesses and expert witnesses. Witnesses, especially third-party neutral witnesses, should be contacted and interviewed while their memories of your accident are fresh. Depending on the disputes in your case, you may need to hire expert witnesses, such as an accident reconstruction expert, doctor, physical therapist, vocational rehabilitation counselor, and economic expert, to help prove the disputed issue.
- Medical records and bills. In order to prove that your accident caused your injuries, the seriousness of your injuries, and the cost of your treatment, you will need to obtain copies of your medical records and bills. The easiest method of doing this is for you to go directly to your doctor and request all of the records pertaining to your injuries. Additionally, if you have pre-existing conditions, these will likely be sought out by the opposing side to try to diminish the value of your claim. Be up front about your pre-existing issues, as they could have a significant impact on your case. And, as you request any records pertaining to the accident, be sure to request records relevant to your pre-existing conditions as well.
- Pay stubs and employment documents. You will need copies of your pay stubs and other employment documents to prove the lost wages portion of your claim. These damages can include lost wages, sick and vacation time, promotions, bonuses, commissions, and other perks of your job.
- Your clothes. In some cases, such as a slip and fall accident, you may want to save the clothes and shoes that you were wearing when you were injured as they may become an issue in your case. In other instances, your bloodied and ripped clothes could be compelling evidence that you might want to show a jury if your case goes to trial.
- Your other expenses. Do not forget to keep track of all of your expenses that arise out of the accident. If you had to rent a car, make sure you keep track of how much you spend on it. If you cannot drive and need to rely on public transportation or private car service (e.g. Uber, Lyft, taxi), be sure to keep your receipts and note where you were going and why.
An experienced personal injury attorney can collect the evidence you need to prove your case as part of his investigation of your claim. The attorney will understand what evidence should be obtained based on the facts and disputes in your case. In addition, he or she will have experience obtaining this information—more challenging when in the possession of the negligent party or his insurance company. If you were injured in a personal injury accident, call our Fairfax law office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your accident and your legal options.