It seems in the world of personal injury claims, everyone either has to get a lightning-fast education in the rules of evidence between the time they are injured and when the ambulance arrives, or they have to know the basics going in.
The good news is modern technology has given everyone multiple options for gathering facts and pertinent information before, during and after an accident. Even if you don’t think you are injured and even if you might think your injury was your fault, if you are physically able, or if you can get someone to help you, there are steps you can take to dramatically help yourself if there is a dispute later.
Here are a few things to consider, especially if you’re in New York City.
The Big Picture
While it would be easy to say all you really need is a panoramic 360-degree high-definition shot of the accident scene, the truth is legal disputes can be much more subtle and nuanced than that. The key moment in your case will be four months after the accident, when you and your nyc personal injury lawyer have to recreate the scene for a judge or a jury or an insurance claim or an opposing attorney.
Almost the entirety of any personal injury case rests on the nature and cause of the injuries and your ability to establish a duty of care on the defendant and the fact the defendant was negligent. As far as your injuries are concerned, those are always a matter of record and will involve emergency and medical professionals. Establishing negligence requires witnesses, a track record and evidence at the scene. If you have both, you are well on your way to obtaining an advantage.
Establishing a duty of care and negligence will require documentation of the accident scene. If you have a digital camera, there is no practical limit on the number of photographs you can take, so be sure to get as many shots as possible, both wide views of the entire area and close-ups of anything unusual or notable. Make sure you use your camera’s highest resolution. If you are unable to do this yourself, have someone do it for you. Your nyc personal injury attorney will be very pleased.
If there are witnesses, get photographs of them and their driver’s licenses. If there are any vehicles present at the time of the accident, photograph their license plates.
If any employees of the premises are present, get their names and titles and the name of their employer or employers. Document the identifications of any emergency personnel or police officers. Take pictures of any visible surveillance cameras, ATMs, bus stops, traffic lights, street signs, signage visible from the location of the accident and any fixtures like railings, benches, stairs, planters, sprinkler systems, lights or anything attached to fixtures like mats, cushions, tape, rope and so forth.
Photograph the license plate of any emergency vehicle that responds and take pictures of badges and ID of any sworn law enforcement or firefighter that responds. This will be vitally important later.
Whether you are transported to a hospital or not, you should take pictures of your injuries from as many angles as practical. This will be important as it may provide a doctor or a trained pathologist an opportunity to dispute or further enhance any medical evaluation conducted at the scene or immediately following the accident at the hospital.
If at all possible, you would be well advised to have trained medical personnel photograph you during and after treatment for your injuries. This will add to the credibility of your documentation and may catch things an amateur would miss.
Remember, the key in documenting the accident is so your attorney can plausibly re-construct events for a judge or jury. The trier of fact will by needs be completely unfamiliar with the incident, so it is risky for you to leave anything out. You have to walk them step by step through every detail, so having all those details in high-definition full color that can be blown up into eight foot tall court exhibits will work in your favor later.
As with any potentially thorny legal matter, you should consult a qualified attorney at your earliest opportunity. Even if you think you are at fault or it isn’t that serious, there may be unforseen details. A quick consultation is in your best interests.