Crash, Bang, Smash! Tips for Successfully Navigating Evidentiary Roads In Motor Vehicle Collisions

by Butler Snow LLP

So your client has been involved in motor vehicle collision. Now what? Whether representing a plaintiff or a defendant in a crash, preserving all potentially relevant evidence is an obvious first concern. What may not be so obvious, however, are certain sources of information that may develop into evidentiary gold mines.

  1. The Vehicle Itself

Your client’s vehicle should be preserved in its post-collision state to the greatest extent possible. If retaining an expert, he or she will take photographs and measurements of the vehicle, as well as the other vehicle(s) involved in the crash, in order to recreate the accident. Additionally, a reconstruction expert may download the electronic control module or airbag control module, the vehicle’s “black box,” in order to capture the vehicle’s analytic data from the time of, and immediately preceding, the crash.

  1. Traffic Camera Footage

Traffic cameras are commonplace, especially in metropolitan areas. Contact the appropriate local or state agency to determine whether a traffic camera is located at or around the location of your collision.

Additionally, inquire as to whether the camera is a live, continuous-feed camera or a camera that records footage for a designated length of time. While some traffic cameras may only provide live, continuous coverage, others record footage for a short length of time. An expeditious request related to such a camera may result in securing footage of the actual collision.

  1. News Footage

A similarly expeditious request should be made to local news agencies that covered, or may have covered, the collision. News outlets sometimes maintain local cameras that could provide footage of the accident.

Also worth requesting from a news agency is a copy of any news segment covering the accident, including B-roll and other footage taken at the site but not used in the final piece. Such footage may provide useful imagery and/or identity potential eyewitnesses.

  1. 911 Call Logs and Recordings

After requesting crash reports, securing call logs and 911 recordings from the appropriate call center is a necessary next step. In addition to helping establish a timeline for the collision, such documents may identify potential fact witnesses in addition to those named in the crash report.

  1. Crash Reports

Request a copy of the crash report for your collision from the appropriate governmental and/or municipal agency. Be sure to request the same from the corresponding fire or emergency management agency of the county in which the accident occurred. Some counties dispatch fire departments and/or county emergency management agencies to potentially critical accidents. Gathering reports from all departments that reported to the collision is crucial in formulating an accurate and complete chronology and recreation of the wreck.

In your report requests, be sure to ask specifically for all photographs taken, diagrams created, toxicology reports run, and tables of measures completed. Tables of measures routinely are not produced with a crash report; however, they are available upon request. If you anticipate retaining a reconstruction expert, a table of measures will be invaluable.

This list certainly is not all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be. Instead, it is meant to provide a useful roadmap in navigating valuable evidentiary sources at the outset of a case in order to provide you with the best evidence as your matter progresses down the street.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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