PREPARING A CAR CRASH CASE FOR SETTLEMENT OR TRIAL
Settlement values and jury verdicts in automobile accident cases can be maximized by proper and adequate case preparation. Here are some things that should be done to prepare a case for trial.
- Locate Evidence — important evidence in car crash cases are: the accident scene, witness statements, police reports and the vehicles themselves. The first step should be to make a list of evidence and determine its location. Vehicles are often towed to body shops. The police report frequently says the name of the tow company that did the towing. Insurance adjusters are also an excellent resource to locate the whereabouts of towed vehicles.
- Preserve the Evidence — Photograph, photograph, photograph. Use a high quality digital camera. If the case requires an expert to examine the evidence, hire the expert and get the examination. If you can’t get access to the evidence, send a letter demanding that the evidence be preserved.
- Get Witness Statements — This is obvious. One piece of advice, don’t let the trial attorney or the plaintiff become a witness to the statement. Staff or a private investigator should take the statement. Don’t forget that insurance adjusters typically take statements. They can be a good resource.
- Get Weather Data — The police report will have some information about the weather. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also stores historical weather data, including doppler radar images.
- Get Traffic Light Sequencing
- Obtain Arial Photographs of the Accident Scene
- Learn all you can about the parties — This includes searching bankruptcy records, arrest and conviction records, asset searches, determine what insurance coverage is available. Interview the injured party and find out specific things that are being disrupted by the injury. Find out what preexisting conditions and medical treatment the injured party might have.
- Conduct Discovery — The Utah GRAMA Statute allows citizens to get copies of government records even before a lawsuit has been filed.
- Follow the Client’s Continuing Medical Treatment — When medical treatment is not managed properly, clients frequently overtreat and undertreat. An attorney, while not a doctor, can give suggestions to a client regarding treatment options to discuss with the doctor. One of the injuries most frequently undertreated are closed head injuries. General practitioners frequently don’t appreciate the importance of a referral to a neurologist or neuropsychologist. The client may not appreciate the need when the mental changes are subtle.
- Document Lost Wages — When injury victims miss work, a claim should be made for that lost income. Obtain employment records to document the income before the car crash and after the car crash.
- Communicate with the Insurance Company — It is a lot easier to settle a case fairly when the reserve has been set high. To get the reserve set at an appropriate level, it is important to provide the liability insurance carrier with enough information early on so that an adequate reserve can be set.