Car accidents happen for multiple reasons, and frequently there are several contributing factors. Maybe a driver was distracted texting while the driver of an oncoming car swerved to miss a fox in the road. The cars collide. Evidence will be needed to prove negligence, and by proving which party was negligent, you prove liability. In Columbus, Ohio, it is all the more important to have quality evidence because your negligence cannot exceed that of the defendant’s negligence; Ohio follows a modified comparative fault law with a 51% bar. The 51% bar rule means you cannot recover damages if you are 51% negligent; only if you are 49% or less negligent, can you recover anything.
If you have been in a car accident and, in particular, if you suffered personal injuries, what evidence you gather and how you use it will help determine the outcome of the claim, or in the alternative, a lawsuit, if it goes that far. Some victims inaccurately think that a traffic citation and/or police report is the primary piece of evidence needed to succeed. Though these documents are very useful to support a claim, they do not, independently, provide proof of liability or connect the accident to the injury. You need a portfolio of sorts full of evidence. The following sums up what you want to look for, how to get it, and how to use it.
The evidence is the link that connects damages to cause and cause to liability. What makes up the evidence may vary depending on circumstances, but generally, evidence will include any and potentially all of the following:
- Traffic citations;
- Police reports;
- Weather reports;
- Road condition reports;
- Insured statements;
- Witness statements;
- Circumstantial evidence;
- Forensic evidence;
- Photographs and videos;
- Accident reconstruction reports;
- Cell phone records;
- Medical records and medical billing;
- Ambulatory transport notes;
- Proof of loss of income;
- Proof of loss of enjoyment; and
- Statutes and other law research.
Gathering evidence can be time-consuming, but as above-indicated, it means everything to your case. From the very beginning, if possible, you should start gathering evidence, and that means, at the scene of the accident, where you will:
- Exchange contact and insurance information with the other party. Look to see if there are any witnesses and get their contact information, too. You need to act fast because once a witness has left the scene, it might be difficult to find them.
- Take pictures. Your photos should include close-up and wide range pictures of the damaged vehicles, the overall scene and surrounding area, license plates, your injuries, bloodied clothes, and anything else that seems relevant. To note, don’t just take pictures of your vehicle, but the other vehicle as well. Some people in an accident are so worried and concerned about their own property damage that they neglect to think about the other car and its damages and how it is relevant to the overall matter.
- Finally, if you are not transported to the ER via ambulance, get yourself there. A medical examiner will include in your chart any injuries as sustained from a motor vehicle accident, which creates a link between events, connecting your injury to the motor vehicle accident, and any subsequent treatment or medical care.
It is after the accident that you should quickly find and hire an experienced automobile collision attorney. An experienced auto accident lawyer will immediately demand the preservation of evidence and request certain other evidence, such as cell phone records if texting and driving is suspected. An experienced attorney will also know how to collect the remainder of the evidence you need to succeed, and this includes the following evidence to be gathered:
- You or your attorney will request by letter all statements from the insurance companies. If not shared and if there’s a lawsuit, the statements will be provided during discovery.
- After all medical treatment is complete, either you or your attorney, through a medical authorization form, will request medical records and billing from every doctor, clinic, and/or hospital that treated you, and will include paramedic reports, ER admitting charts, doctors’ notes, test/exam results, and physician’s diagnosis/prognosis.
- Your attorney will use the information you collected at the crash site, such as potential witnesses and their contact information. The attorney will contact the potential witnesses and take their statements. An experienced attorney will follow-up on any leads provided by the witnesses, too.
- Your attorney may also hire a private investigator to return to the scene, locate videos, inquire into circumstantial evidence (texting) or examine forensic evidence (skid marks), and draft accident reconstruction reports.
- If applicable, request by letter proof of loss of income from your employer and combine it with previous income statements and a medical professional letter advising no work.
- The law is a form of evidence, too, and your attorney is skilled in legal research to find, analyze and apply it.
Apply the Evidence
You have your side of the story. You or your attorney will apply the evidence you and your attorney gathered to your story. The evidence will support and substantiate your side of the story and contradict the other party’s side of the story.
Only an experienced car accident attorney in Ohio can put all of these pieces of evidence together to build your story and argue your case accordingly within a well-organized and dramatically written demand letter, and later, again if it goes that far, in a complaint for a lawsuit.
As it is, car accident and personal injury law can be nuanced, complex and tricky. It can also be time-consuming and technical. Some evidence may be questionable and other evidence inconclusive. It takes tact and skill to put the evidence together so that it clearly, unquestionably links your damages to the cause of the accident and the cause of the accident to the liable party(s).
Win Your Claim
If you have been in a car accident in Columbus, Ohio, you need to hire an attorney who is experienced, resourceful, and knowledgeable. Contact the Chester Law Group today to schedule a free consultation.