Basic Evidence Gathering in a Vehicular Negligence Claim

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Official, Fillable Contact Us About Your Personal Injury Insurance Claims Form.When faced with a terrible car accident, the last thing your family wishes to worry about is fighting in court. So this is where trained legal professionals can step in. These are expert injury attorneys who can take on the negligent party or parties on your behalf.

In these types of claims, you're fighting defendants, municipalities, or making an insurance claim. So the evidence is vital to victory. 

Evidence gathering.
Looking for evidence meme pictured above.

When injured in such a case, having someone to collect and preserve evidence is vital. The skilled attorneys at Ehline Law have the tools and experience necessary to do so. So they can help solve your car accident woes.

Table of Contents:

The Evidence is What Helps You Build and Strengthen the Injury Claim

What is the evidence? As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, the evidence is:

the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid:the study finds little evidence of overt discrimination
  • Law information drawn from personal testimony, a document, or a material object, used to establish facts in a legal investigation or admissible as testimony in a law court:without evidence, they can’t bring a charge
  • signs or indications of something:there was no obvious evidence of a break-in (Oxford)

When faced with such situations, only legal experts can construct the body of evidence. So this is what needs to get submitted to the court. Evidence accrual leads to documents and authoritative information.

Then this will get used as admissible evidence in court. Hence, now the plaintiff has evidence to prove or disprove contentions.

Example of Probative Value and Prejudicial Effect?

An example can be to prove that a driver involved in a vehicle accident was DWI. A DUI or DWI conviction could get used as evidence. Most pertinent here, a judge can deem liability in advance. So now all the parties are arguing over is some damages. 

Furthermore, in such a case, a judge may find DWI evidence is too prejudicial. So, in other words, the inflammatory effect can outweigh any probative value to prove the case.

All the parties are arguing now is whether the victim got injured and the other driver was the cause. It is not ultimately the defendant's or plaintiff’s role to assume things about evidence. The rules say that some evidence will eventually be admissible or inadmissible at trial.

As seen in Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court, the discovery phase in California is a so-called fishing expedition. Most of all, this is ultimately allowed in a civil case.

Some Inadmissible Evidence Leads to Admissible Evidence?

Because of this, evidence that a court may deem inadmissible could still become allowed in a civil discovery matter. So it's allowed if it tends to prove or disprove the existence of other evidence. Perhaps the additional evidence could eventually come to trial. Also, victims must demonstrate the truth of the matter asserted to win.

They are allowed to fish for evidence so that they can do just that. For example, car crash victims often get escorted away in an ambulance. So discoverable evidence could include a Traffic Collision Investigation Report. Although usually it gets considered hearsay at trial.

But it could lead to witnesses and to refresh said witnesses’ memories. For example, the EMT could be sought out and called as a witness. Also, this is true, even though the report itself may not come in at trial.

So almost all evidence is relevant unless privileged or confidential for civil discovery. Also, as seen in Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court (1961) 56 Cal. 2d 355, both parties have compelling reasons to find and produce as much evidence as possible.

What is "Evidence Gathering" in a Car Accident Case?

The evidence collection process begins immediately after the incident, especially in a car crash. The victim could work with the police on the scene. Also, this plaintiff can gather statements and create a record of the incident.

Of course, many victims of vehicle wrecks get severely injured. So often, they got wasted and escorted away in an ambulance. The ride to the hospital is vital to prove injury. Furthermore, without this evidence, an insurance company’s adjuster will try to claim the victim is faking it.

Evidence Comes in Many Forms?

Evidence can take many forms, including witness statements, medical records, prescription bills. Also, it includes photos of injuries and videos of how the accident affected daily life. Some of these shots can get taken at the crash scene.

So pictures of the vehicles themselves or the people involved creating a link in the chain of evidence. Even photos of the victim at the hospital can come into evidence. Evidence can also get extracted from official documents, such as police reports. These items can build the credibility and foundation of your case.

So all of this can meet the threshold of evidence to win the case. But getting injured as a legal novice makes victims usually unable to carry out investigations. So this is where a skilled legal authority can step in and work on these issues on behalf of their clients.

The best evidence is that which shows the responsibility of the other party. Typically, the driver, the vehicle owner, the car or truck manufacturer, the product defect, or another valuable artifice.

Also, this can show the other party’s action or inaction that caused such an injury. Having a doctor’s record that documents your injuries are vital to prove the time, place, and extent of the harm inflicted.

When a Party Refuses to Produce Relevant Evidence - Sanctions?

Almost everything can be evidence during the discovery phase of civil proceedings. Because of this, it can lead to other evidence that would generally be admissible at trial. So even though much of what you discovered will be barred at trial, you are allowed to research and develop leads from it during this stage.

Just make sure to include written objections so you can renew them during the trial. There are cases when a party refuses to produce evidence that proves or disproves claims or defense. In these cases, the could be no full resolution until a petition or appeal becomes realized.

Still, a party can move to compel and seek sanctions from a court of law against the party improperly withholding evidence. Furthermore, this is because evidence could show an individual’s honesty, character, or liability.

And this could even be evidence that one party has a fraudulent car accident claim. But this can be a long, complicated process that will require a skilled lawyer to convince a judge to force that party to comply and apply a sanction.

The First Step Is to Informally “Meet and Confer”?

As in many jurisdictions, Los Angeles and broader California courts require that the parties informally confer before trying to bother a court with discovery motions.

This informal meeting can get done:

  • In-person
  • Through phone calls
  • Letters
  • Faxes and other methods.

By trying to work things out, you can prove to your judge (or their law clerk) that while seeking discovery, you made a good faith attempt to resolve the matter before motioning court intervention.

  • Many California judges call this process a "Starbucks" meeting.

Can Unverified Discovery Responses Be Used to Impeach Character?

Yes. That's about all unverified responses to discovery are good for, assuming these responses conflict with other facts or later discovery. However, you should bring a motion to get verified responses since unverified responses are "no response at all" if they are not under "penalty of perjury" as true and correct. 

One issue that comes up a lot is the unverified discovery response. The interrogatory and document responses are sent to a party but not verified– which must get done under penalty of perjury.

Courts have ruled that this constitutes “no response at all,” as seen in Appleton v. Superior Court (Cook) (1988) 206 Cal. App. 3d 632. Newly minted attorneys can miss this vital step and fail to meet their burden of proof at trial.

What Are Some Downsides of Seeking Sanctions for Failure to Comply With Discovery?

Seeking sanctions can also lead to complicated proceedings, as the authorized party to pay them will be angered and refuse to settle without a jury trial. A skilled lawyer can avoid that. In extreme cases, the lawyer may pay the sanction award out of pocket since he screwed up and angered the court, parties, or clients.

Sometimes Inadmissible Evidence Can Lead to Other Admissible Evidence?

Absolutely. Other evidence, including that of a past crime, could be found in cases like this. Usually, these things may not be appropriate to enter as evidence in a civil or criminal case. Because of this, so-called "fishing expeditions" are allowed during the discovery stages of your case.

But this "inadmissible" evidence could lead to information regarding witnesses or accomplices who could have information leading to other relevant evidence.

There could also be issues where defendants’ actions or inaction made injuries worse. Examples of cases like that include medical malpractice or defective products.

Call a Car Accident Lawyer at Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys APLC to Learn More

When faced with such an incident and the aftermath, having an experienced and successful attorney is essential to your financial outcome. You want to hire someone second to none. Our firm has settled hundreds of cases for our clients.

Call or contact us now at ELF Personal Injury Attorneys today for a free, no-pressure consultation (213) 596-9642. Hablamos Espanol.

About Our Author, Attorney Michael Ehline

About our author, Los Angeles, California attorney and resident Michael Ehline
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Ehline Law Maintains locations and meeting places in Long Beach, Torrance, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, San Bernardino, and Riverside. We can come to your home or bedside anywhere in Northern, Central, or Southern California.