Blog of William C. McCaskill
Collecting Evidence In Car Crash Cases
Posted on July 21, 2017
This exercise is one of a personal injury attorney’s most important jobs since the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in negligence cases. While the police report is often one of the most important pieces of evidence, it is usually not the last word.
These reports are often biased because if the victim was seriously injured or killed, the police report probably only contains one side of the story. Moreover, these reports are often incomplete, because first responders are at the scene not to collect evidence but to help victims and secure the area. For these reasons and more, critical evidence is often overlooked, at least at first.
Recent events surrounding Venus Williams underscore this point. Palm Beach Gardens, Florida police initially faulted the tennis star for a fatal collision, then subsequently changed that finding after new evidence surfaced.
In the Venus Williams case, the new evidence was surveillance video footage from a nearby camera. First responders almost never review this kind of evidence before preparing their reports, although it is widely available from red-light cameras, nearby businesses, amateur videographers, and other sources. Video evidence is also very convincing in front of most juries.
Another type of electronic evidence, the event data recorder, is available in almost all crashes as well, since all new cars and trucks sold after 2012 contain an electronic black box. Tech-savvy jurors are usually highly receptive to this type of evidence as well. Device capability varies according to make and model vehicle, but most EDRs capture and record a wide range of crash-related data, including:
- Steering angle,
- Vehicle speed,
- Brake application, and
- Engine RPM.
While many of these items can be established by other means, such as photographs of skid marks or witness statements, electronic data is almost impossible for defense lawyers to challenge. For example, an eyewitness could be mistaken about a vehicle’s speed or could have been in a poor position to judge steering angle, but electronic data directly from the tortfeasor’s vehicle is nearly always 100 percent accurate.
Prior to court, an attorney probably needs to get a court order to inspect and download the information on an EDR, because of privacy laws. Even before then, an attorney should send a spoliation letter to the vehicle’s custodian, so that the EDR is not lost before it can be inspected.
Surveillance video, EDR downloads, and other electronic evidence are usually admissible as business records, which means that such evidence is easy to admit.
Contact an Assertive Attorney
Electronic evidence can significantly enhance a victim/plaintiff’s case. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Oxon Hill, contact The Law Office of William C. McCaskill, PLLC. After hours appointments are available.