Basic Evidence Gathering Tips In A Vehicular Negligence Claim

Official, Fillable Contact Us About Your Personal Injury Insurance Claims Form.[Content updated 3/22/2021] When you or a loved one are faced with a terrible car accident, the last thing your family wishes to worry about is fighting in court. Our trained legal professionals will now step in and help with some tips to save your car accident from the jaws of defeat. Because we are expert injury attorneys, we know how to gather evidence. Below are some basic traffic accident evidence gathering tips to assist you. The more you do right now to preserve and protect evidence, the more leverage we will have against the negligent party or parties who caused your serious injuries and suffering.

In these types of claims, you and your loved ones will be fighting defendants, municipalities, or making an automotive insurance claim. So the evidence you gather before filing your car accident lawsuit will be vital to your future victory. And these rules apply to motorcyclists, pedestrians, and anyone else involved in a California motoring collision.

Evidence gathering.
Looking for evidence meme pictured above.

When you suffer a severe injury or lose a close loved one to wrongful death, collecting and preserving evidence remains vital to proving liability and winning damages compensation. The skilled attorneys at Ehline Law have the tools and experience necessary to do help solve your car accident evidence gathering woes.

Table of Contents:

Car Accident Evidence Helps You Build And Strengthen Your Serious Injury Or Wrongful Death 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 you are faced with a loved one’s death, or you suffered catastrophic car accident injuries, you must prove the other driver caused the accident. We know that people will lie after leaving the accident scene and blame you. Your legal experts can construct the body of evidence only if it is not lost, stolen, repaired, or destroyed. But you are going to read this article, so you won’t let that happen. If you don’t gather vital evidence, it won’t be submitted to the court, and you won’t meet the plaintiff’s burden, costing you your case.

You must think about it this way; when you give your lawyer evidence, its accrual leads to witness names, addresses, phone numbers, weather conditions, statements made by parties at the accident scene, and even police officer badge numbers, including accident investigation reports. You must provide your lawyer with all documents and authoritative information, including photographs and your social media account information. You can rest assured, even if some evidence remains inadmissible in court to prove or disprove facts, it can still be used to prove or disprove contentions and lies.

Example of Probative Value and Prejudicial Effect?

Our first example can be used to prove a driver involved in a vehicle accident was DWI. Your car accident lawyer can use a criminal defendant’s DUI or DWI conviction as negligence per se evidence. That means your judge in the civil car accident lawsuit can deem the other driver liable in advance as a matter of law since crimes require a higher standard of proof than civil claims. So here, the parties will save money and time because no one is trying to convince a jury who caused your severe suffering, stress, and pain.

Furthermore, your judge may find DWI evidence is too prejudicial for a jury to know about. If a jury becomes emotional or enraged, it may unfairly award you too much money. So, in this case, the inflammatory effect of this evidence can outweigh any probative value to prove your damages case reasonably. Because of the evidence rules, the parties are left arguing over reasonableness and the necessity of your medical expense and hospitalization. Your role as defendants or plaintiffs means you cannot assume things about evidence. The evidence rules say some evidence will eventually be admissible or inadmissible at trial. Sometimes your judge will allow things and exclude things he or she shouldn’t. Your remedy is to file an appeal. (Maybe you should have settled when you had the chance?)

As seen in Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court, California’s discovery phase is a so-called fishing expedition and ultimately will be allowed in a civil case. Courts will decide what comes in as evidence during the trial, at the motions in limine stage. Any other objection to evidence will be made orally before the judge or jury, or in-camera, outside the jury’s presence, or during a sidebar.

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, if the car crash victim was escorted away in an ambulance, how would that victim obtain accident scene evidence? To prove their case, those hospitalized plaintiffs would later seek discoverable evidence, including a Traffic Collision Investigation Reports. Although even though police reports will generally be considered hearsay during the trial. Why? First of all, an official report about your crash could lead to witnesses and refresh said witnesses’ (Like the cops you call to trial) memories.

For example, the EMT who helped treat/stabilize your broken arm or brain injury could be sought out and called as a witness. Even though some seemingly reports may not come in during your case in chief at trial, almost all evidence is relevant during discovery. If you wish to shield information from party discovery, you must seek a court order. And if not, it’s coming in if the motion to compel is granted. If not, the court will find that the evidence sought is privileged or confidential during civil discovery. You can appeal this ruling by seeking a write or mandate or prohibition or appeal after the final verdict. Also, as seen in Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court (1961) 56 Cal. 2d 355, both parties will 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 motor vehicle incident, especially in a passenger car or motorcycle crash. The victim could work with the police at the accident scene. Also, this plaintiff can gather witness statements and create an accident site record. Of course, many victims of vehicle wrecks suffer severe injuries or even die. Most of the time, they get escorted away in an ambulance. So, proof of their hospital ride remains vital to proving their injury was connected to this particular wreck. 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 pain medicine bills, and so forth. The evidence includes photos, computer hard drives with injuries, and videos of daily life consequences suffered. If you were in a fender bender, you could take these shots at the crash scene. If you suffered terrible injuries, you would need to have a friend or representative get to the crash site so they can gather evidence quickly.

So pictures of the vehicles or the people involved will create a link in the chain of evidence. Even the victim’s hospital photos can become evidence. Evidence can also get extracted from official documents, such as police reports, as discussed. 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. Skilled legal authorities can step in and work on resolving client issues. The best evidence is proving responsibility party liability, responsibility or fault, as in our DUI conviction example above. Typically, the at-fault vehicle driver, vehicle owner, the car or truck manufacturer, product maker, or another party will share apportioned responsibility.

Your lawyer must have access to any evidence tending to show if another party’s action or inaction caused your suffering or familial loss of life. Having your doctor’s record documenting your injuries remains vital to prove the time, place, manner, and extent of the harm inflicted upon you.

When does a Party refuse 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. Often this evidence could show an individual’s honesty, character, or liability or prove or disprove a fraudulent car accident claim. But car accident evidence gathering can be a long, complicated process, requiring help from a skilled lawyer. You must retain a local lawyer with the respect of the judge and their staff. You must convince a judge to force that party to comply and apply a sanction, or you will wish you had settled when you could!

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 parties to a lawsuit, or insurance claim trying to work things out, your judge (or their law clerk) will see you made a good faith attempt to resolve the matter before motioning court intervention while seeking discovery.

  • Many California judges call this process a “Starbucks” meeting.

Can Unverified Discovery Responses Be Used To Impeach Character?

Yes. 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 be done under penalty of perjury. 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 the defendant’s “verified” responses. A party’s unverified discovery responses are “no response at all” if not made under “penalty of perjury,” as “true and correct.” (See 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.

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 California 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.

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