In civil cases, including those involving personal injuries, a plaintiff is required to establish each and every element of his or her claims by what is known as preponderance of the evidence. Alternatively stated, he or she must demonstrate that it is more probable than not that each such element was in fact met. Because personal injury claims tend to proceed on theories of negligence, it is necessary to prove that the defendant owed a duty of some sort to the plaintiff, that duty was subsequently breached, that the breach caused the harm asserted and that calculable damages were incurred as a result. In order to accomplish these tasks, a variety of evidence is typically introduced, and it is useful for prospective plaintiffs to understand the types of proofs routinely employed in order to obtain the compensation they seek.
Importance of Prompt, Thorough Evidence Collection
Before delving into the distinct categories evidence used to bolster personal injury claims in court, it is important to underscore just how important it is for victims and their advocates to begin gathering evidence in their case almost immediately after the event itself. The success or failure of a personal injury case almost always turns on the strength of the available evidence, and there really is no time to waste in marshaling all available facts and support. The process can begin by taking photographs at the accident scene and making handwritten notes of eyewitness accounts. It can then continue over subsequent months, as voluminous documentation of medical treatments and lost wages will begin to mount.
One of the most critical categories of documentation in any personal injury case is that comprised of medical records. Direct evidence of this type can include records that detail the specific injuries suffered by a plaintiff, the treatments received and prescribed going forward, the medications taken as a result, the sorts of pain and impairment experienced and more. The more complete the record a plaintiff can assemble following their injury accident, the stronger their arguments are likely to be. Conversely, a defendant in a personal injury case may seek to introduce older medical records pertaining to the plaintiff in an effort to establish that the injuries and limitations complained of were in existence before the accident at issue even occurred.
Because accident scene evidence can quickly deteriorate or be disturbed, photographic evidence taken soon after the event itself is often one of the best ways to convey to a judge or jury precisely what happened on the date in question. Visual image of property damage and injuries themselves can be extremely persuasive, and plaintiffs would do well to secure evidence of this type whenever possible.
Witness accounts of this sort can also prove useful in personal injury matters, as they involve explanations of what individuals experienced with their own senses. This is true whether the testifying individual was present at the time of the accident or had witnessed a particular condition or circumstances alleged to be a contributing factor to the harm sustained. Though such witnesses are not called due to their particular expertise on a given subject matter, their proximity to and personal knowledge of the matters in controversy can lend an air of credibility that serves to bolster a party's arguments significantly.
Expert Witness Opinions
In many personal injury matters, it is necessary for parties to call upon the specialized education and knowledge of expert witnesses who can help explain particularly complex or technical concepts. Expert witnesses may be used to explain medical diagnoses and treatments, the physical mechanics of an accident event or other topics which may be difficult for laypeople to grasp in the absence of such assistance. Experts can also be asked to provide opinions about the facts and allegations at hand, based on their years of professional or academic experience. Economic loss experts may be called to provide projections on future lost income resulting from debilitating injuries or to give estimates of any reduction in earning capacity stemming from the event.
Evidence Gleaned from Social Media Accounts
It may surprise some plaintiffs to learn that another realm of evidence being used in personal injury cases with greater frequency is that of social media presence and postings. Defense attorneys have increasingly begun scouring plaintiffs' social media accounts in order to find evidence that their claimed injuries are greatly exaggerated or that they existed well before the accident forming the basis of the litigation. Evidence that a plaintiff has continued to engage in vigorous recreational activities or that he or she had complained of infirmities months or years prior to the event at issue can be used to seriously and perhaps fatally undermine claims for compensation.
Surveillance and Investigative Evidence
Insurance companies fighting back against injury claims have long been known to engage the services of private investigators who perform surveillance on those attempting to collect sizable financial awards through the courts. As a result, it is not unheard of for video or other evidence collected in this way to be introduced in order to damage a plaintiff's credibility, provided that it reveals a level of activity or fitness that appears to be inconsistent with the injuries asserted.
Employment and Wage Loss Evidence
Another category of evidence which can prove vital to the success of a personal injury claim is that which includes documentary evidence of lost wages, pay rates and the like. In order to make a convincing case for payment of lost wages stemming from the negligence of the opposing party, it is necessary to concretely establish precisely how much was lost, including actual wage rates, ancillary benefits and missed promotions.
Effective Evidence Gathering and Legal Advocacy in Colorado
Make no mistake, defendants in personal injury actions will go to great lengths to evade accountability to those they have harmed, and detailed, voluminous documentary evidence is the best way to combat their reluctance to pay. Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is intimately familiar with the types of evidence that are most effective in securing full and fair financial recovery for injury victims, and he will work collaboratively with each client to build the most detailed case possible. To begin the process of developing your personal injury claim, contact us at 303.825.2223.