Proving fault in a personal injury case is often about showing a defendant’s negligence. Sometimes that negligence is direct, and the facts are obvious. For example, imagine a driver who was clearly speeding through multiple stop signs and hit another driver who was obeying traffic laws. A case like this requires little investigation. This is what you might call an “open-and-shut” lawsuit.
Other cases take much more work. Liability may be obvious, but only after all the evidence is presented in court. To gather this evidence, attorneys must investigate the facts of the case. Here are some methods that lawyers use to prove liability in personal injury cases.
Explore the History of the Defendant
Even in an open-and-shut case, investigating the defendant’s past behavior can make a case stronger. Consider our imaginary speeder, running stop signs. Even though there is already a strong case against them, it’s helpful to see how many times this has happened. Do they have a record of regularly speeding and driving through red lights? How many crashes have they been in, and how many were their fault? Using facts like these demonstrates a pattern of behavior, one that a court may penalize through financial damages.
A defendant’s history is helpful in all manner of personal injury claims. If they are accused of malpractice, do they have a history of harming patients? When someone slips and falls in a store, is the management consistently negligent about cleaning up spills or preventing new ones? If the answer to such questions is “yes,” you have a stronger case to prove that the defendant was likely to repeat this behavior, causing you injury.
There is a variety of ways to investigate a history of negligent behavior. There may be a record of prior settlements that your lawyer obtains. In a traffic case, your attorney can find a history of tickets and judgements against the defendant.
Sometimes, lawyers can find witnesses to help prove their case. Consider our negligent store manager who keeps a spill unattended. Your attorney could question frequent customers or even employees of that business. If a pattern of behavior emerges, it can be used as evidence in court.
Recreate the Scene of the Incident
Recreation is another important investigative tool. Normally, it does not involve bringing in a team to conduct experiments, attempting to yield the same results. (Although, it could.) Recreating in civil court is more about finding the most likely solution given the facts at hand. In civil lawsuits, plaintiffs need only a “preponderance of evidence” to prove their case, meaning that their claim is more likely true than it is untrue. If the court is at least 51% convinced that the claim is real, they can rule in favor of the plaintiff.
Therefore, evidence can be interpreted more broadly. For example, you can look at the dent in a car and make a reasonable estimation of how a driver was hit, at what angle, and at what speed. Physical evidence can play a crucial role in recreating an accident. Tire marks can reveal which cars stopped, how fast they stopped, and when the brakes were applied. Surrounding damage can tell you where each car traveled in an accident. In a slip-and-fall case, you can inspect the floor itself, looking for unstable or slick areas. Perhaps you could investigate the plumbing of a store or the location of its fountain machines, exposing the likelihood of a dangerous spill.
Attorneys can also use records to reconstruct an event. Medical records, for instance, can provide clues. Police records will tell a tale, especially if an officer already blames the defendant for an incident. Again, lawyers can call witnesses into testimony. People who viewed an accident can tell their story, strengthening a case. Also, lawyers can request surveillance footage. Perhaps the cameras caught a fall in a store, or maybe a parking lot camera recorded a nearby car accident.
Allowing an Attorney to Conduct an Investigation for You
If you’ve been injured by another’s bad behavior, and you’re having trouble meeting your financial needs, talk to a lawyer. It may be time to consider a personal injury lawsuit. Your attorney will employ the methods outlined above, building a case that proves you were harmed through no fault of your own.
If you win, you could be compensated for the money you lost due to the injury. Money you lost from missing work could be reimbursed. Physical damage, such as in a car accident, could be recovered. You may even be entitled to extra money to help cover the pain and suffering you endured.
Trust our firm to help investigate the facts surrounding your injury. Call us today for a free consultation at (607) 228-8404, or contact us online.