In my role as a plaintiffs personal injury lawyer, I am all too aware of the importance of thoroughly investigating a case and gathering all the necessary evidence in order to make a successful claim on behalf of a customer. The onus is on the claimant to prove, on a balance of probabilities (more likely than not), that a third party is responsible for his injury and any loss resulting from the accident. A client’s case is as good as its evidence. Evidence can make or break a case.
So what is involved in investigating a claim and how do we collect evidence?
The investigative exercise and the gathering of evidence usually begin with the first meeting. And while most cases are resolved without a trial, all cases are prepared on the assumption that they may ultimately end up before a judge in court. The whole process can involve many people, from lay clients and lay witnesses to officers and expert witnesses, both medical and non-medical in different disciplines.
In road traffic cases, for example, statements from clients themselves are of great help, although in some cases due to the nature of their injuries, such as head trauma, this may not be possible. . Independent witness statements, if any, can be very helpful, however, due to data protection, there are several hurdles that must be overcome in order to get their contact details if a client does not have them.
We almost always contacted the police to get a copy of the traffic collision or felony report. Unfortunately, in some circumstances the police report may not contain enough information or may contain information that does not match the client’s version of events. In such situations, it may be necessary to interview the police officer present and ask for a copy of his notebook.
It is also helpful to obtain a copy of the ambulance report (Land or Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HMS)) as the paramedics present will usually take note of their observations when they arrive at the scene. Before the pandemic, it was also possible to interview ambulance personnel for statements.
The ambulance report will normally contain vital contemporary information about the presence or position of the injured client, whether he was unconscious and how he was immediately afterward, as well as information about the circumstances of the accident. They can also record details of cookies. I recently settled a case for six figures, fully liable for a client where the circumstances of the accident and liability were hotly contested. This was only possible because we were able to locate a witness who was at the scene immediately after and who had taken pictures of my client lying on the road. Police did not have details of this or other witnesses, but the London Ambulance Service had made a note in their report. The driver and her three passengers had all made statements that were inconsistent with the damage to both her vehicle and my client’s bicycle. Importantly, the photographs taken by this witness confirmed the accuracy of my client’s version of events.
In some cases, CCTV footage may be available from the local authority or local shops / restaurants / train stations near the crash site or even from bus companies if the crash involved a bus. In other cases, there may be other video evidence, including dashcam footage of the injured customer, the driver against whom the claim is made, or a witness. In situations where the evidence is conflicting, it may be necessary to obtain a reconstruction report from a specialist to help piece the puzzle together. Examining vehicles or the pedal bike if there is one, and inspecting damaged personal effects, including a helmet, can also help.
News and social media reports are commonly used for news gathering purposes.
Obtaining medical records, including A&E notes, can also aid in the assessment of liability as these may contain details of the circumstances of the accident, thus arguing that a client was injured at some point. date at some point in these circumstances, resulting in the injuries of which the complaint is made.
In addition to establishing liability, it is necessary to obtain supporting evidence proving that the injuries and financial losses were directly attributable to the accident. This not only involves obtaining contemporary medical records from A&E, hospitals, and general practitioners, but also medical and non-medical expert reports. There could be a whole host of specialist reports, including in disciplines such as, but not limited to, orthopedics, psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, neurology, neuropsychology, urology, ENT, speech and language, prostheses, orthotics, care and occupational therapy, accommodation, employment and forensic accounts among others.
In addition to obtaining expert reports, we often obtained HMRC tax records, employer personnel and occupational health records, DWP records, social service records, and any other records that may be relevant to the business. claim.
Making sure all of the pieces of the claims puzzle are in place can lead to successful claims for clients who often suffer life-changing injuries to enable them to lead as independent lives as possible.