When a person suffers an injury in an accident, the last thing on their mind at that time is the need to gather evidence to support their claims. The person’s wellbeing is top in their priority at that time. However, they should start thinking about gathering evidence as soon as they get injured because success in a personal injury case in Florida requires sufficient evidence. Even though the law allows injured persons to get compensation for their injuries from the responsible parties, the case will be determined in court after all the evidence gathered has been verified.
For that reason, gathering evidence should be of utmost importance and should be done immediately after the person has suffered an injury. Matters regarding the type of proof required and its gathering can be tricky for a person who has little knowledge about legal issues. That is why at Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we are here to help. We aim at helping people who have suffered personal injuries understand the type of evidence they need to prove their cases.
Reasons Why Evidence is Important in a Personal Injury Case
Legally, evidence is any material that is presented in court to convince the jury and judge of the facts of a particular case. Evidence is what helps the judge reach a decision. The basis of his/her decision is on all the evidence presented in a trial. In any case, there is always a need to present as much evidence a person can gather to support their claim. Little evidence may amount to no evidence at all, and the ruling of the case may be against the truth.
There is a need for evidence in all types of cases, whether criminal or civil. In a situation where a person got injured, for instance, sufficient evidence is required to help determine who was at fault and whether or not the person suffered injuries in that particular accident. The injured person could collect evidence, with the help of his/her legal representative. Since the judge cannot proceed without enough evidence, this should be the first step the injured party and his/her attorney should do before filing their case in court.
Any evidence gathered should be guided by a particular legal principle, laws, and rules, all of which control how judges and juries analyze the information presented to determine its truthfulness, reliability, and admissibility in court. A typical example of the type of evidence that could be useful in a car accident case is physical evidence. In this case, the court will be looking for any physical object that could validate that a crime indeed happened or one that could provide a link between the crime and the perpetrator or victim.
It is essential to collect evidence, and the success of your case lies in the kind of evidence that you gather. Note that evidence is what will aid in the solution of your case. It will guide the court in determining what happened, and convince the court that the perpetrator committed the offense with criminal intent.
Again, the evidence provides all the elements of a crime. Elements of a crime are facts that the prosecutor will be required by the court to prove for the defendant to be found guilty of the offense. In cases concerning personal injury accidents, for instance, the main element in personal injury matters is negligence. A person can only act negligently if they owed a duty of care to their victims. Your attorney will explain to the court how the defendant owed a duty of care, how he/she breached that duty through negligence, and how that negligence caused your injuries. He/she will derive all this from the evidence they have gathered from the accident.
Finally, evidence will help prove or disprove any statements or theories that could have been formed about what happened at the accident scene. When everything is clear, the court will be able to determine the at-fault party and the degree of their negligence.
Types of Evidence Needed in a Personal Injury Case
The primary purpose of any legal system is to deliver justice. It means that if a person in Florida gets hurt in an accident through the fault of another, the states’ legal system has the mandate to help that person recover all the losses they have sustained. The legal system also ensures that people who have not done anything wrong are not punished unfairly. That is the reason why evidence is crucial. There is no way the judge will know that you suffered harm in an accident and how you were hurt if you do not support your claims with evidence. Again, there is no way to tell that you were not at fault in an accident if you do not support your claims with evidence.
To win in any civil case, you need to prove to the judge that your version of events is what happened. You need to demonstrate that with enough evidence because the jury will not just take your word for it. The good thing is that there are several ways through which a person can gather evidence to support their claims. It brings us to the different types of proofs that can be useful in a personal injury case:
It refers to any physical evidence that could be used to prove a case. In civil lawsuits, for instance, demonstrative evidence is the kind of evidence that illustrates the damages a plaintiff suffered in an accident. This type of evidence could be in the form of videos, photographs, audios, x-rays, MRI results, security camera footage, and anything else that will show how an accident happened and the damages that resulted from it. In civil cases, a verbal description of events in an accident will only provide substantial evidence, which is never sufficient to convict an offender. However, with demonstrative evidence, the jury can clarify the facts of the case to pass judgment.
A reconstruction is a form of demonstrative evidence used in most personal injury cases, particularly those that result from accidents. When an accident reconstruction expert testifies to the actual cause of the accident, he/she will base the testimony on both scientific methods and technical principles, which could be challenging to understand if presented verbally. The visual representation brings the evidence to life and can be used to prove or disprove a case.
Similarly, when the court uses video footage, it shows some of the events that eyewitnesses could have missed while giving their testimony.
It refers to any evidence that a court can use in the form of documents. It is also the type of evidence that is popularly known as written evidence. As opposed to oral testimony, documentary evidence comes in the form of a written paper. Examples of written evidence in an accident case include medical records, invoices, emails, therapy notes, and auto repair bills, among others. For the court to admit such evidence, there must be proof in terms of a testimony from a witness that the document is genuine.
Note that any piece of evidence presented in a paper is not necessarily documentary evidence, especially if it is offered for another purpose other than the contents of that document. If, for instance, the court received a blood-stained letter as proof that the offender stabbed their victim from behind as the victim was writing the letter, the focus here is not on the note but the bloodstain. In that case, the note will not be documentary evidence but physical evidence.
A film, on the other hand, showing how a murder happened, can be used as both physical and documentary evidence.
Digital devices are all over the world today, helping people to communicate better and with ease, both locally and globally. With technological advancement comes so many digital devices that are useful in various aspects of living. Note that this does not just apply to the use of cell phones, computers, and the internet alone but every other technological device that could be used to convey information and messages.
In that case, digital evidence could be anything from emails to hard drive data, instant messages, cell phone logs, online banking transactions, Facebook posts, as well as archived tweets. The court will use any piece of digital evidence that could help resolve a case.
When it comes to car accident cases, digital evidence is among the types of evidence that is admissible in court, as long as it helps the judge decide on who is at fault and how he/she should pay compensation to the injured victim.
If a truck driver caused an accident, for instance, there are Electronic Logging Devices, which are usually connected to most truck’s powertrain. These devices can provide irrefutable evidence on matters such as how long the driver has been on the road and how long he/she rested in the hours before the accident. This is a piece of reliable digital evidence that could be used to determine fault on the part of the trucking company.
This kind of evidence is what helps the judge piece together what happened in an accident. Scientific advancements have enabled experts such as reconstruction specialists to understand and bring out details that could not be described by an eye witness. Such experts use a wide range of tools as well as physical evidence to bring together a much clearer picture of how the accident happened.
Forensic investigators are, for instance, used to provide their opinion after an accident because they understand collision physics better, which explains how a car crash happens. If, for example, one vehicle was not moving at the time of the accident, it is easy for such an expert to determine the speed at which the other car was traveling. If speed was the leading cause of the accident, then scientific evidence will be used in such a case to prove negligence.
Forensic investigators are also used in car crash scenes to study photographic evidence and deduce what happened at the scene of the accident. For this to work, they need proper documentation of the scene of the accident. With that, they can provide a complete analysis of what transpired in the accident scene, evidence which can help the judge make his/her decision.
Evidence Must Be Admissible
Gathering proof does not always guarantee that it will help prove your case. For evidence to be useful, it must be admissible in court. The state of Florida uses an Evidence Code that governs how the admission of evidence happens in the trial. If by the rules, your testimony is not relevant, the other side can ask the judge to exclude it from the court’s consideration.
An example of evidence that cannot be admitted in court is hearsay. Legally, the definition of hearsay is any statement any other person other than a sworn witness makes, which is offered to prove the matter at hand. If, for instance, long after a truck accident happened, a friend or relative to the truck driver tells you that they are sure that the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. This statement is in itself, not admissible in court and will not be used to influence the court's decision.
There are exceptions to such statements, though, for instance, if they are made at a confession. In that case, the court will admit the report as evidence. Again, if such a statement is made out of out of court, it could be accepted in the trial.
The kind of evidence that is admissible in court is one that is competent, relevant, and material. Relevant evidence is one that has some reasonable tendency to help demonstrate or disprove a particular fact in a case. That evidence should at least increase or decrease the likelihood of some facts if not make those facts sure. Once relevant evidence has been admitted in court, the judge will now determine the suitable weight for that particular evidence. Material evidence is one that can prove a fact that is in dispute in a specific case. Lastly, evidence will be considered competent if it complies with all the legal notions of reliability.
Working closely with an experienced personal injury attorney helps you understand the difference between admissible and inadmissible evidence so that you can only concentrate on that which will benefit your case.
Florida Best Evidence Law
It is crucial for anyone that is gathering and preparing evidence in Florida to learn about the state’s best evidence law. According to this rule, anyone who wants his/her documented evidence admitted in court must have it in its original document. If, for instance, an injured person in a car accident wants to prove their medical costs in court, it will be best to submit the original bills and invoices from hospitals, surgeons, lab, pharmacy, physical therapists, and treating physicians, among others.
If for whatever reason, the person is not able to have the original documents, they might find a suitable solution under the state’s best evidence law. Some banks may, for instance, not cooperate to release the original documents to you for use as evidence in court. However, you can get copies of the financial records plus an affidavit stating that those are the correct and true duplicates of the original files.
If the defendant and the plaintiff agree to settle the case out of court, there will be no need for anyone to meet this best evidence law. However, if the case is to be determined in a civil court, it must meet the requirements of this rule. It is, therefore, advisable to collect as many original documents as possible to increase the chances of your evidence being admitted in court.
In addition to gathering only relevant evidence, it is vital to ensure that your evidence is well protected and secured. It will apply to all the documents and information that is in your custody, possession, or control. Your focus should not just be in gathering proof but also in ensuring that the evidence you get isn’t lost or damaged. If, by any chance, you lose information or documents get destroyed earlier before the trial, the other party may file a claim against you for evidence spoliation.
In Florida, there is a document spoliation rule through which both parties have a legal mandate to protect every record in their control, whether the records are helping them in the case or not. This legal burden commences at the time of the accident and will go on until the court determines the matter. It mainly benefits the plaintiff and not the offender in a car accident case.
In case of a car accident, for instance, the at-fault party may be expected by the court to produce documents and any other material that will show how the other party was negligent. The defendant may decide to intentionally destroy or erase data that could help prove such a case. If this happens, he/she will have violated the duty against evidence spoliation.
Civil cases are not concluded in a rush, without verifying that every piece of evidence presented in court is genuine. The court process includes authentication of documents to ensure that only those that are genuine are being admitted in trial. The accident victim will have to prove to the court that every material they present is factual. Depending on the type of document the plaintiff is filing in court, the court may require proof of its genuineness.
With that in mind, it is advisable to consider using self-authenticating documents above everything else. These are mainly public records that you have obtained from an authorized government source. They may include police reports, which can be used independently and appreciated as being reliable and admissible in court as proof.
Other types of reliable documents you can use as irrefutable evidence in court include:
- Public records have been signed and sealed by the government - Any material that has an official seal from the state, municipality, county or any department or agency can be taken as reliable evidence in a civil court
- Endorsed public records - Not all official documents come with a seal, but the government can certify copies of original documents that have been kept on files. Certified death certificates are, for instance, some of these accredited records that can be used in court.
- Official publications - They include publications that have been issued by a government authority. They may consist of releases issued by the Transportation Department concerning risks involved with a crossroads where the accident occurred. It could help the plaintiff prove liability in their case.
- Magazines and newspapers - Pictures in a magazine or newspaper can be admissible as evidence in court if they could be authenticated.
- Acknowledgment or affidavit - These are mainly used to verify documents, more so business records. The plaintiff could obtain an oath to support the many materials they are using as evidence in their claim.
The Best Place to Find Reliable Documentary Evidence
It should not be hard to find reliable documentary evidence to help prove a personal injury claim in Florida. The best sources of documented evidence include:
- Police department
- Hospital administration
- Medical providers
- EMS and ambulance services
- Personal records
- Government agencies
- Personal photographs
- Personal investigation
- Employment records
- Financial records
Find a Clay County Injury Attorney Near Me
After an accident, there is so much to deal with, especially for the victims. It includes the need to prove your claim. Gathering evidence is not as easy as it sounds, and it gets worse if you have to ensure that the evidence is admissible in court. At Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we are here to ensure that our clients have enough evidence to prove their case and get the justice they deserve. Call us at 904-494-8242 if you have suffered injuries in Clay County, Florida, and let us walk you through the process.