When you’ve been involved in an auto accident in South Carolina, or any other accidental event that causes personal injury, or even an intentional act of aggression that caused harm, you may have a right to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. However, it is not as simple as just filing a claim and collecting your compensation. There’s a lot more to it than that, and much of the process involves gathering, documenting, and organizing your evidence, then presenting that evidence in a manner that is effective in proving your case. Today, we’re going to look at a few steps you can take to help gather and document some of the more common evidence in any personal injury claim, as well as important insurance information. Most of the key evidence gathering will need to be accomplished by your attorney, so getting the assistance of an experienced lawyer quickly is often helpful to your case.
The first thing that you need to do after almost any kind of personal injury event, in terms of obtaining evidence and information, is to gather the contact and insurance details of anyone who may be at-fault in the accident. In a car accident, this will include all drivers who are involved in the incident. In a premises liability claim, such as a slip and fall, you’ll need the information from the property owner or manager of the property. In assault and battery cases, this may not apply, since the aggressor is not likely to write down their information for you. If you were assaulted on the property of a business or an area where there are security guards, once you are safe, you would be wise to gather the information of the property owner or the security company.
Keep in mind that the liable party might inform their insurance company of the incident, so you may receive a call from an insurance claims adjuster. You are not required to comment or give a recorded statement—in fact, you shouldn’t. In order to protect your rights, politely decline to make any comments about the case until you’ve spoken to an attorney.
If your injuries are not too severe, try to obtain photographic or video evidence of the accident site and surrounding conditions, as well as your injuries, immediately after the accident while conditions remain unchanged. Photograph the position of the vehicles, any relevant road signs, the road conditions, the vehicle damage, and the injuries. If there is anything else that you think might be important, photograph it. If you have a dash cam, then the video evidence can be particularly helpful.
Photographic and video evidence can be useful in other types of personal injury claims. No matter how your injury happened, you should take pictures of your surroundings and your injuries immediately after the accident. In a slip and fall claim, you might photograph the hazard that caused you to fall and enough of your surroundings to show where you were when it happened. If the event happened in a store or somewhere else with security cameras, the store may have video evidence as well. But the store might not save the recording, so be sure to get your own video of the conditions at the time of the accident.
In an assault claim, you might capture a photo of the injuries and even the aggressor, but only if you can safely do so—never put yourself in harm’s way just for a picture. In any personal injury case, your attorney may be able to find video evidence from surveillance cameras. This is often the case when an injury occurs on or near the property of a business. Give your attorney a clear description of where the injury occurred so they can contact businesses in the surrounding area and find helpful video footage.
Another thing that you need to do at the scene of the incident is to obtain the contact information of all possible witnesses. You don’t need to get their statements at the scene, though if they are willing to write down what they observed and if there is time to do so, that can be helpful. Simply obtaining their contact information is going to be extremely useful when your attorney initiates their investigation of the incident and is looking for all available evidence. You want to get this contact information before the witnesses decide to leave the scene, because you probably won’t be able to find them later if you don’t.
Many personal injury claims involve police reports. To ensure that there is one, you must report the incident to the police. In many cases, this is legally required, such as auto accidents. Thus, if your personal injury was caused by an auto accident, there should definitely be a police report for you to obtain. If your personal injury was caused by an act of aggression, you should call 911 immediately and file a police report, and make sure to obtain a copy.
At the time of the incident, you can ask the responding officer how you can obtain a copy of the report, for clarity, though you should be able to do so by contacting the local police station where the event occurred. Having the police report will help to prove that the incident occurred, and establish many of the details concerning the event and the injury.
The next step involves gathering the evidence of the treatment that you received and the cost of that treatment. To do this, you’ll need to access your medical records and the associated medical bills that you’ve received from the doctor, hospital, surgeon, physical rehabilitation center, chiropractor, psychiatrist, therapist, etc. Hold on to any receipts for prescription medications that you are prescribed. Even if your own health insurance covered any or all of these expenses, you still need to get the bills, invoices, and statements.
You can obtain these records and bills from the persons and places (doctors, hospitals, chiropractors, rehab facilities, therapists, etc.) where you received treatment for your injuries. This is going to help you prove that you sustained injuries, the severity of those injuries, and the various medical procedures that were required to treat the injuries. It also helps you to establish the actual cost of any procedures, surgeries, or other treatments.
Here, we have addressed the steps that you can take after a personal injury concerning the gathering of evidence. This brief summary certainly does not include all steps that need to be taken after an injury. Naturally, the pursuit of medical treatment should be among your top priorities. Of course, if you chose to retain counsel many of these suggestions and other investigative efforts will be handled by your lawyer. Contact the attorneys at Thurmond Kirchner & Timbes, P.A. for a free consultation to learn more.