The moments, days, and even weeks that follow a car accident or other injury-causing incident can be chaotic. We are all living busy lives anyway. Add to that a car that is destroyed, a stay in the hospital or the need for regular medical treatment, inability to perform in your occupation, or even the inability to perform basic household tasks. Worrying about protecting your personal injury case is probably the last thing on your mind.
However, as the person making a personal injury claim, it is your burden under Nevada personal injury law to prove your injuries and damages by a preponderance of the evidence. The purpose of this article is to present some simple, big picture things you should do to make sure that evidence of your accident and your personal injuries is preserved.
Take care of your body and document your injuries
The evidence that you were injured is your own body. The human body bruises, breaks, tears, bleeds, ruptures…you name it. We are fragile. But these obvious indicators of injury, and medical documentation of them, are the key pieces of evidence in proving that you were, in fact, injured.
The first thing you should do is get treatment. This task goes beyond something as ultimately trivial as your personal injury claim, as protecting your health is a priority regardless of circumstance. However, if you aren’t getting treatment for your injuries, then later on when we are making a claim for compensation, the lack of treatment looks in retrospect like you weren’t really hurt that bad. Getting to the doctor, and getting proper treatment (read here how we can help you get treatment without insurance) creates a series of medical records which, after you have recovered, document your symptoms, injuries, treatment, and resulting costs.
As soon as you have seen a physician and began receiving treatment, start taking pictures. The body, as fragile as it is, can heal quickly. Blood gets cleaned up. Bruises disappear. Stitches come out and wounds heal. Once you begin healing, visual evidence of the original condition of the injury is gone forever, and the evidentiary value of detailed photographs depicting the severity of you injuries is lost.
Return to the scene
Returning to the scene is a great idea, as details of the scene become easily forgotten amongst the chaos of the incident itself. Viewing the scene of a car accident can help you remember which vehicles where were or who did what before the light turned green or who turned without a right of way or maybe that the light wasn’t working at all. By the same token, returning to the scene of a trip and fall can help you identify the condition that caused you to fall.
If you were in an automobile accident, be sure to confirm the location of the vehicle. The amount of damage done to the vehicle is an important component your personal injury claim. A heavily damaged vehicle is evidence of a more severe collision, which of course can more reasonably lead to the resulting injuries you deserve to be compensated for.
A witness to an accident can help your personal injury case immensely. Someone else who is unbiased who can relate the same story and version of the accident lends credibility to your case. Additionally, a witness can provide information you were not aware of which can help prove how another person was at fault. Witnesses also may have heard statements someone else made that are against their interest. Witnesses also may have actually seen your injuries and have first hand impressions of your level of pain and injury.
The key, of course, is identifying witnesses and then talking to them. If possible, gather names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers right at the scene of the accident. Many witnesses are anxious to offer their assistance and you may not even need to ask. If you have information from witnesses (or gather it from a police report or some other source), contact them as soon as possible. If you wait too long, the information they have may be lost or forgotten, or the witness may no longer be around at all.
If circumstances are preventing you from doing any of the other things in this article, you should at minimum take some pictures. Pictures are phenomenal evidence. Take pictures of your car, of other cars, of the accident scene, and of the substance or condition you slipped/tripped on. Take pictures of other people’s drivers license and insurance card. Take pictures of your injuries before they heal. When in doubt, take a picture.
Some photographs are better than others. Here are some tips for making sure the photographs you take do the job of preserving evidence in your personal injury case:
- Do not use Polaroids. Use a regular camera with regular film or a digital camera. The most modern phones also now have enough pixels to take good photographs.
- Take photographs from different angles. Later, you can pick out which photographs do the best job of highlighting the object your pictures.
- Take photos as soon as possible so that they will accurately represent the condition of the evidence after the accident. Ongoing photographs of injuries are helpful, particularly those that show an injury that was slow or difficult to heal.
- Document the date of the photographs. This can be done by have a friend witness you taking the photographs and writing a note stating they observed you taking pictures. Or, if you are developing film, make sure the photo shop indicates the date on the back of the prints.
- Use flash, even outdoors.
Not convinced these tasks are important in proving your Nevada personal injury case? Check out our blog entries on negligence and proving your personal injury case to get an idea of what Nevada personal injury law requires in order to prove your case. With the right evidence, we can maximize your personal injury settlement. Without evidence, you may go home with little or nothing.