Preserving Accident Evidence
In any case involving an automobile, truck, motorcycle or other product, the vehicle or product is important evidence in any potential case. This evidence must be preserved because it will usually be needed if the family decided to pursue a personal injury claim for many purposes. For example, an accident reconstruction expert will need to examine and measure the crashed vehicles to determine the speeds of the vehicles during the crash. The crashed vehicle will also be needed to determine whether the vehicle performed or failed to properly perform in protecting the driver or passenger, to determine the cause of the accident, or to determine the outcome of issues that may arise in the case such whether seat belts were used. Preserving the evidence is relatively simple, but must be done quickly so evidence is not lost or destroyed. For example, in an automobile case, both vehicles should be preserved. This can be done by tracking down the vehicles, sending appropriate letters to whoever has possession of the vehicles (such as a tow yard or the police department) and sending letters to the various insurance companies that might be involved. The key here is to act quickly: oftentimes insurance companies or tow yards will move fast to clear out wrecked vehicles from their inventory, and soon after processing a wrecked vehicle, will send the vehicle to be crushed for scrap metal. This is why it is important to act immediately to send appropriate preservation letters and take other necessary steps to make sure the vehicles are not destroyed. Oftentimes a tow yard or property insurance company will request that the person requesting that the vehicle be preserved pay salvage value for the vehicle, or pay towing or storage fees. They will also often request that the vehicle be moved out of their facility. Because of the importance of preserving evidence in a catastrophic brain injury or spinal cord injury case, the evidence must be preserved despite the need to pay for the salvage and storage fees. Furthermore, it is also advisable to take possession of the vehicle and store it in a secure covered facility. Usually a self-storage unit can be rented and is perfect for storing an evidence vehicle. This allows the evidence to be protected from the elements and secure from vandalism. Another important part of preserving evidence in an accident case involves evidence that might be present at the scene of the accident. In a crash case for example, this might include rubber marks on the road surface, pools of glass on the side of the road, or other debris or components of the vehicle that come off during the crash. Unfortunately, rain, weather and traffic can destroy this type of evidence, which is why efforts to preserve scene evidence cannot wait. To preserve evidence at an accident scene, as soon as possible following a crash an experienced accident reconstruction team should be dispatched to the scene. The team should be instructed to photograph all crash evidence, document the location of all debris by photography, videotape, and preferably survey equipment. All physical evidence which is found should then be carefully collected, bagged and logged. Note: it is not advisable for friends or family members to document the scene of an accident. The first reason is that the person who collects the evidence will become a witness in the case. Second and more important, is that unless a person is properly instructed on how to properly document and collect accident scene evidence, there is a good chance that the person will accidently hurt the case by failing to make a proper record of where and how the evidence was found.
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