After you have been seriously injured in a car accident, one of the first things you must do to help your insurance company, law enforcement and your own lawyer is to collect – and preserve – evidence. Your early efforts in this area can make a huge difference in determining the liability of your adversary, the absence of liability on your own part, and the eventual outcome of your claim. Remember: Even if you are injured too badly to collect this evidence yourself, you can have a family member or friend obtain the evidence. Even after you hire a lawyer, you will need to continue your efforts to acquire and preserve evidence.
Evidence to Support Car Accident Claims
Auto accidents that result in serious bodily injuries usually also involve damage to the vehicles; but those property damage claims can be worked out by the two auto insurance carriers, yours and the other driver's. Our discussion here pertains to your claim for serious or possibly fatal bodily injuries that will be the basis of a wrongful death claim. But before you can determine what evidence is needed, you need to know what you are trying to prove.
Here is what you are trying to prove:
- That there was, in fact, a motor vehicle crash (usually a collision);
- That you sustained serious bodily injuries (these can include mental/emotional injuries) in the crash itself, or as a direct result of the crash;
- That another person was at fault;
- That the other person's fault was a cause of your injuries;
- That as a direct result, you have sustained "damages"
- In Arizona, even if you were partially (even mostly) at fault , so long as the other party was also partially at fault, you are entitled to recover damages from that other party up to his percentage of the overall fault.
- Your "damages" include: compensation for your physical pain, emotional suffering, loss of the enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, your reasonable and necessary medical expenses (past and future); your lost earnings (past and future); and miscellaneous other monetary compensation, depending on the circumstances.
- In wrongful death cases, your survivors may seek monetary compensation for the pain and suffering that they (not you) have suffered as a result of losing you, your love, your companionship and your economic support, if any. They may also seek reimbursement of your burial and funeral expenses.
Here is the sort of evidence needed to prove these points:
- Evidence of a crash: Call the police – always. Their Accident Report will serve as proof. Take photos of the accident scene, including the vehicles in place, if possible; and photos of the vehicle damage; and photos of your own injuries, if visible. Witness names/contact information can be crucial here, also.
- Evidence that you were injured: Photos of your injuries (digital/cell phone); police; other witnesses; ambulance, hospital, doctor and therapy records.
- Evidence that the other person was at fault: Admissions by the other party involved; Police and Accident Report; eye witness statements; digital photos of the accident scene, including skid marks, signs, vehicle damage, etc.; accident reconstruction experts.
- Evidence that the crash caused your injuries: The police and Accident Report are helpful; but you must obtain medical records to support causation; photos of your obvious injuries, and photos during the progression of your treatment, open wound, sutures, scarring, casts and splints; crutches; wheelchair; physical therapy records, etc.
- Evidence that you have sustained economic "damages:" itemized ambulance bills, medical bills, pharmacy bills, skilled nursing and assisted living bills, physical therapy bills; earnings records from your employer; tax returns, and similar.
- Evidence that the other party was at least partially at fault: Arizona is a "comparative fault" state in which an injured party can recover monetary damages from the other party, even if the injured party was partially (even mostly) at fault. Example: pedestrian jay-walks and is hit by a car. Although pedestrian is in violation of the right of way laws, the motorist still has a duty to be on the lookout for obstructions and people in the roadway: Police Accident Reports are usually helpful in this regard; witness statements; admissions by the other party; photos of the scene; accident reconstruction experts, even if you were partially at fault (even if you were more at fault than the other party), so long as the other party was partially at fault, you are entitled to recover his portion of your overall damages from him.
- Evidence of your physical pain and emotional suffering: Some damages are considered obvious. Anyone who breaks a leg is presumed to suffer. These types of damages are called "general damages." Then there are "special damages," which are specifically for your situation: any complications or infections arising from your injury; the combination of multiple injuries; any cuts, stitches, scarring; your specific medical expenses; your specific lost earnings; the loss of your specific hobbies, activities, sports, etc.; the specifics of your emotional suffering, and the nature and extent of your loss of consortium with your spouse or child.
- Evidence of damages in wrongful death cases: These are vastly different from the damages to be proven in non-death injury cases because they usually do not include any bodily injuries and associated medical treatment. Wrongful death damages refer to the emotional and economic damages experienced by the fatally-injured person's surviving family members. In Arizona, these "survivors" are limited to the decedent's spouse, children and parents.
Have you been injured in a Scottsdale car accident? The Watkin Law Firm has over 35 years of experience handling cases like yours and offers free case evaluations to discuss how our firm can help you!