Tips for Preserving Evidence After a Personal Injury Accident

October 20, 2023

Preserving evidence after a personal injury accident is vital for securing a favorable outcome in your case. You can significantly strengthen your claim by following these steps.

Our experienced Lugoff, SC personal injury lawyers can build a strong case and help you get the compensation you deserve. We serve clients in Lugoff, Columbia, and across South Carolina.

1. Record the Accident Scene

The first step in preserving evidence is to secure the accident scene. If possible, ensure that the scene remains undisturbed until law enforcement arrives. Take photographs or videos of the accident scene, including any visible injuries, property damage, or hazardous conditions that may have contributed to the incident. These visual records can serve as valuable evidence later on.

2. Gather Witness Information

Identifying and gathering witness information is crucial to support your personal injury claim. Speak to witnesses at the accident scene and obtain their contact details. Witness testimonies can provide valuable insights and corroborate your version of events, strengthening your case.

3. Preserve Physical Evidence After a Personal Injury

Preserving physical evidence is vital for proving liability and damages in a personal injury case. If applicable, keep any damaged property, defective products, or other physical evidence that may have contributed to the accident. Do not repair or dispose of any damaged items before consulting with your attorney, as they may be essential for establishing liability.

4. Keep Medical Records

Medical records are pivotal in personal injury cases, as they provide evidence of your injuries and the extent of your damages. Seek immediate medical attention after the accident, even if you believe your injuries are minor. Record all medical treatments, prescriptions, and expenses related to your injuries. These records will help substantiate your compensation claim.

5. Consult With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Navigating the legal complexities of a personal injury case can be overwhelming, especially when dealing with evidence preservation. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney ensures you follow the correct procedures and protect your rights. An attorney can guide you through the process, gather additional evidence, and help you build a strong case.

Preserving evidence in a personal injury case

Spoliation of Evidence in South Carolina

Spoliation is a term used in the legal context to refer to the intentional or negligent destruction or alteration of evidence that is relevant to a case.

In a personal injury case, spoliation of evidence can occur if, for example, a defendant destroys or alters key documents or objects related to the accident or injury. This could include things like surveillance footage, accident reports, truck black box data, or defective products.

Remedies for Evidence Tampering in a Personal Injury Case

The affected party can request sanctions against the party responsible for tampering with or destroying evidence. These can include penalties such as fines. To address how spoliation could affect the fairness of a proceeding, courts may employ two remedies.

  • Case dismissal against the party responsible
  • Presuming that destroyed or altered evidence favors the opposing party

Many jurisdictions, including South Carolina and the Fourth Circuit, rarely apply dismissal as a remedy for evidence tampering in civil cases. They reserve dismissal for cases where there is clear evidence of bad faith.

Instead, the courts generally presume evidence that a plaintiff or defendant tampered with would help the opposing side.

South Carolina State Court Precedents

In South Carolina, the courts have consistently upheld that when a party is responsible for destroying or altering evidence that would have been relevant to a case, the opposing party is entitled to favorable presumptions about the contents of the missing evidence. This rule is based on the policy of presumptive prejudice to the other party and is evident from the earliest court records.

An early case, Halyburton v. Kershaw, 1810 WL 298 (S.C. Ct. App. 1810), set a precedent for this rule. In this case, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, stating that if further details about an agreement had been necessary, the plaintiff would have been entitled to a presumption regarding those details.

In simple terms, courts generally hold that juries or judges should assume that someone destroyed or altered evidence because that evidence would hurt his or her case.

Contact Our Personal Injury Lawyers Today

Understanding the nuances of preserving evidence in a personal injury case can be complex. An attorney can guide you through the process, gather additional evidence, and help you build a strong case.

Our team at Connell Law Firm has recovered millions on behalf of clients in South Carolina. Contact us at 702-266-6355 today.