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Evidence in Motorcycle Crashes
Proving fault, and the entitlement to damages, requires evidence. Evidence comes in many forms. There is no one piece of evidence that in and of itself will determine the precise outcome of a case. Rather, your case must be built upon a culmination of the evidence available to establish that another person caused or contributed to the harm that the victim complains of. While some evidence is a common component to most personal injury claims, other evidence is unique to the specific circumstances or type of accident involved. Common evidence used to prove fault and damages in motorcycle crash cases include:
- Police Reports. If law enforcement was dispatched and/or if injuries are involved, the police will create a report based upon information gathered at the accident scene. This report includes things such as the persons and vehicles involved; contact and insurance information; accident location, as well as landing positions, and sometimes diagrams of the accident scene; weather conditions; witness contact information, and sometimes their statements; any citations issued; and so on. If able to, and given the opportunity, you may want to review the report to ensure that all information has been properly documented.
- Witnesses. While witness information should be documented in the report, the police may have failed to identify or speak with all witnesses, and rarely will record all witness statements, if any at all. Witness statements can be critical evidence in motorcycle crash cases, and relying on the police to fully document this information, can result in loss of a key witness that cannot be located in the future, or diminishment in value of the evidence because the witness is unable to fully recall the events at a later time. Record as much information as you can at the accident scene.
- Party Statements. While statements made by the other motorist are generally considered inadmissible hearsay, there are exceptions to the rule, such as admissions against interest, excited utterances, and state-of-mind statements. In addition, where the statement is offered into evidence for the purpose of proving something other than truth of the statement, such as for proving inconsistency in prior statements/testimony, such evidence may be admitted.
- Photographs. If you are able, take as many photographs of the accident as possible. Take pictures from different angles, including the location of actual impact, as well as the surrounding area. Damage to other vehicles and/or property; accident debris; signage and traffic control signals; surveillance cameras; and roadway surface conditions or obstructions, are just a few types of things to look for. Also, photograph any other parties involved, including the driver and any passengers, as well any witnesses.
- Victim Incident Logs. Starting at the scene of the accident, document as much information as possible, including witness/party statements, your own personal observations, and anything else that you think may be relevant. Continue to keep a log following the accident (i.e. subsequent changes made to signs/signals at accident scene, potential witnesses and their statements, medical treatment received, etc.). This is particularly important for those that do not consult with an attorney immediately following the crash, because it can be difficult for victims to recall specific details at a later time.
- The Motorcycle, Helmet & Gear/Clothing. It is important to photograph, as well as take measures to preserve any physical evidence related to the accident, including the bike, helmet, and gear/clothing worn. In some cases, the insurance company may declare the bike a total loss, and you may be required to give title and possession of the bike to the insurance company. Whether it is your insurance company or that of an opposing party, it is important to keep in mind that motorcycle itself can be valuable evidence, and once it is handed over, it may be lost forever. This is the perfect example of why it is important to consult with an attorney as early as possible following a crash. As for your gear and helmet, make sure you save this as well. If you were transported by ambulance, this may have been brought with you, and in some cases the police have it in their possession.
- Surveillance Camera Footage. The availability of surveillance and other types of video footage has significantly increased in recent years. While surveillance obtained from surrounding businesses was once the primary type of footage, there are now many more options, such as red-light and railroad crossing camera footage, bike-cams, and videos recorded on the phones of witnesses.
- Medical History, Records & Bills. In addition to proving fault, the motorcyclist must also prove that they were harmed, and the harm occurred as a result of the accident. Upon hiring an attorney, either the letter of representation or a release form signed by you will allow them to request necessary information. Being open and honest with your attorney, can assist him in gathering all the information needed to advocate on your behalf, resolve liens/outstanding bills, and put the maximum amount in your pocket. Read more…
- Testimony: Depending on the availability, usefulness, and reliability of witness testimony, witnesses may be requested to give depositions or testify at trial. Also, the victim may be required to give deposition testimony, and in some cases may also testify at trial. Some of the most valuable evidence in personal injury cases can come from treatment providers, as well as professionals or experts in certain fields (i.e. medical, accident reconstruction, economist/future damages). Character witnesses (i.e. family/friends of victim) may testify as well, often for the purpose of demonstrating how the victim’s physical condition, state of mind, or life in general has changed due to the motorcycle crash.
While typically your attorney is able to secure most of the evidence needed to prove your case and maximize recovery obtained, it also important to keep in mind how the victim’s actions, both at the accident scene and immediately thereafter, can play a role in identifying and preserving evidence. At the same time, we do understand that motorcycle accidents can result in severe injury, or even death, making it difficult or impossible for the victim to take action following the crash. We also understand that many victims are not prepared, informed, or in a state-of-mind to consider the types of evidence that should be protected. Consequently, the sooner you meet with an attorney, the sooner evidence relevant to your case can be identified, preserved, requested, obtained, and evaluated.
Let our experience team of professionals go to work for you. Contact the Chicago Motorcycle Accident Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., online or by calling 773-516-4100.