The Basics of California Personal Injury Case
The key to success in any Personal Injury case, whether the case is settled or taken to trial, is a strong foundation. A strong foundation consists of a sound initial investigation and gathering of all evidence possible in the case. Whether the case is an auto accident, a defective product or an injury from premises liability, the following steps are crucial to success:
1. The accident scene: As soon as possible, a visit to the accident scene should occur. Photos of the scene should be taken right away. The more time passes between a photo of the accident scene and the date of the accident, the less relevance the photo has.
a. Any photo of the scene at or near the time of the accident, or before the accident should be searched for as well.
b. Any video of the scene should be investigated as well, including any potential video of the actual accident. An examination of any surveillance cameras should occur immediately. Generally, surveillance camera footage is only kept for a limited period of time, so if there are cameras, and they contain any potential footage of the accident, or even vehicles involved in the accident, notification to the owner of the footage that they are in possession of potential evidence should be done right away. Also, just because an initial investigation of the accident scene does not disclose the existence of any cameras, it is wise practice to contact the authorities in charge of the intersection to see if there might be any cameras that might not be visible.
c. A diagram of the accident scene should be obtained, including approximate measurements, traffic signs and signals, etc.
2. Medical Information– the evidence of the injury is obviously crucial. This consists of two separate categories:
(1) obtaining all medical reports – whether it be from the treating physician, the ambulance or paramedic report, etc. All reports from Medical professionals in regards to your medical condition in relation to the injury-causing incident should be obtained and thoroughly analyzed.
(2) getting the appropriate medical care- The treating physician often does not appreciate the importance of obtaining actual evidence of the injury. Getting the appropriate proof of the injury can be crucial later in your case. A doctor’s opinion as to the injury is generally not sufficient, if there are certain tests that can be run to confirm an injury, they should be run. If it is necessary to bring in a specialist to confirm any injury, it should be done. The reason all of this needs to be done, is that the insurance company or the jury is going to want proof of the actual injury. The treating physician’s opinion that an injury occurred will not be sufficient, so if there are additional ways to obtain that proof, it needs to be done.
3. Contact Witness’s – this can generally occur as well when the accident scene is visited. Many times, witnesses might not have been documented in the accident report. In residential areas, they could have observed the accident from the comfort of their living room, without anyone knocking on their door to obtain a statement. That is where your attorney comes in. Even today, with all the advances in technology, an adequate investigation still includes knocking on doors.
4. The accident report – or any other official report of the accident or injury causing incident should be obtained and thoroughly analyzed. This can be the strongest evidence in your favor in settlement negotiations or in front of the jury. The accident report will also reveal the Officer in charge of the accident investigation. Depending on the case, it can be helpful to contact the investigating officer to see if there are any elaborations or additional information that would be useful for your case.
5. Evidence of similar incidents – whether it is an auto accident or a slip and fall case, evidence of similar incidents that occurred at the location can be the strongest type of evidence that can be revealed in a jury trial or during settlement negotiations. If the location of the accident has had similar accidents it can be used as evidence of the cause of the accident, or that the government agency in charge of the road has knowledge of the unsafe nature of the road, or at a minimum notice that something was potentially wrong. If a certain intersection has a long history of auto accidents, it will be hard for the government to claim that the road or the design of the road is safe. The California Highway Patrol keeps track of all this accident information in the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System.
6. Employment Records – all employment records need to be obtained, ideally showing how long you have worked there, how long you have been out of work, and how many hours you normally work. Once you sign a release, your Accident Attorney can obtain all of this information from your employer.
7. Contact the Insurance Company – once you sign up with Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer Michael Rehm, the other sides insurance company will be notified of this right away. Two reasons this can be important. One, once the insurance company is on notice that you have hired a lawyer; they can no longer contact you about the case. Two, we will also be requesting the policy limits of the other sides insurance policy. This generally allows us to understand what kind of ability the other side has of legitimately complying with any judgment against them, as well as the value of the case.