Much of the preparation for a case will be handled by your lawyer, but a lawyer is not there in the critical moments after an accident occurs. In those moments you can really help yourself or a loved one by being observant. As soon as someone is injured, you should start preserving and collecting evidence – if it is safe to do so.
Evidence is what lawyers show to the jury. It is the facts. Evidence is also what a lawyer uses to convince the insurance company that it should settle a case because it will lose if it goes to trial. Evidence can be the testimony of a person, pictures/video, or even physical artifacts from the area where the accident occurred. As soon as an accident happens it is easy to collect the evidence, but usually as time passes it becomes more difficult.
A lot of cellular phones have cameras – use them. It is better to have options, so the more pictures you take, the better. Pictures that don’t show anything significant can always be ignored, but untaken pictures are lost forever.
Why not wait until after you see a lawyer to take pictures? Well, as we all know, things change. Often there is a difference in the way your injuries look or the way the scene of the accident looks on the day of the accident versus the day you are in court because roads get re-paved, businesses go “out of business” or build improvements, bruises fade, etc. If you document the scene and your injuries, then a jury and your opponent will see what you saw. This is very powerful evidence. Often the person who took the pictures can be one of the “star witnesses” in the trial, but often anyone who also saw the scene and remembers it can testify about authentic pictures.
Important pictures to take include: the scene where the injury occurred, the cars involved in an accident, the floor you slipped on, or anything else you think caused your injuries. Take pictures from different angles because some angles will show the scene details in a better light. Be sure and always focus your pictures. And, again, more pictures are better than less.
Names and phone numbers:
Often people will stop to lend a hand. These people are kind and thoughtful citizens, but they are also great witnesses. Unfortunately, many times they are gone before anyone thinks to write down a name and number. By taking down names and phone numbers you make it possible for your lawyer to interview the witnesses later. Do not assume the police will document all of the witnesses. They are busy and frequently do not document all the important witnesses. These “strangers” who stopped by have no favorites; they are unbiased in their testimony and make wonderful witnesses later. Remember: If they are kind enough to stop they are going to give you their information; just ask.
When your lawyer has the best evidence possible he has a better chance of representing your interests successfully. Be mindful that, frequently, the best evidence may be lost forever if it is not preserved at the scene of an accident.
Here are links on how to take better pictures with your iphone: