Avoiding the Evidence Gap in Personal Injury Cases

It’s understandable why accident victims might drag their feet before contacting a personal injury attorney. Sometimes they want to wait and see how high medical expenses will go. Or, if they are partially at fault they think they can’t or shouldn’t sue. And sometimes, suing just feels wrong.

But failing to reach out to a lawyer promptly often ends poorly. Evidence is crucial for proving who is liable and how much a victim is owed. If too much time goes by before collecting it, evidence can disappear or become irrelevant.  

Here’s why it’s important to act quickly to avoid an evidence gap and get the compensation you deserve.

What Evidence Do I Need to Start a Personal Injury Claim, and What Can Happen to Evidence if I Wait?

As soon as we consult with you about your case, we can begin to gather proof regarding who was liable for the accident. Evidence can come from a variety of sources, including:

An Accident Report

According to the Illinois State Police, drivers must report any accident resulting in death, injury, or property damage exceeding $1,500 (or $500 if a driver is uninsured) within 10 days. If you don’t file a report when required, you may be charged with fines, jail time, or a suspended license. 

But even if an accident seems minor, it’s still a good idea to request a report. Insurance companies usually require one before processing a claim. Plus, if you don’t realize you’re injured, you’ll have the necessary paperwork in case pain shows up later.  

An officer called to an accident will write a report that tells where the incident occurred, lists resulting injuries, and includes witness accounts of how it happened. In a slip-and-fall or similar incident, the business or facility where the incident took place often creates a similar report. It’s essential to question witnesses right away to avoid an evidence gap. If too much time goes by, witnesses can forget what happened or change their story. 

Photographs and Videos

Pictures provide a visual representation of how an incident played out. Photos of injuries, tire marks, damage to vehicles, and the surrounding scene can paint a picture of what happened and how much harm was done. Videos from security cameras can give a live view of the incident in action. 

If photos and videos aren’t collected right away, there will be a huge evidence gap. Tire marks eventually fade. Faulty handrails might be fixed before an investigation begins. Security footage from a slip-and-fall accident can be erased. Without photos or video evidence, it becomes a case of their word against yours. 

Physical Evidence

Tangible items that were present at the scene are often used to prove liability. For instance, clothing that has blood on it shows there were injuries from a car accident. Torn clothing indicates that someone was dragged or caught on something, which can prove an area at work was unsafe. Washing or tossing out such clothing before deciding to sue is getting rid of important evidence. 

The same goes for faulty or toxic products in a product liability case. If you throw away a shampoo that made you lose your hair or a food container that made you deathly ill, an attorney can’t prove to a judge that your condition resulted from that product. 

Social Media Evidence

In personal injury cases, posts and photos from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn can provide insights into the plaintiff’s physical and emotional state before and after the accident. For instance, if a defendant posted photos of himself drinking in a vehicle or at an event on the same night as an accident, it could prove he—and even the venue—is liable. Or perhaps a dog owner in a dog bite case posted that the pet had previously bitten someone else.

Because social media posts can easily be deleted, it’s a good idea to take a screenshot of any posts and turn them in to a lawyer right away. 

Medical Records

Bills from ambulance visits, hospitals, chiropractors, physical therapists, and even psychologists can be compensated after an accident. Suppose you don’t go to the doctor to get checked out because the pain isn’t bad enough, or you don’t keep receipts of payments made to providers. In that case, it’s difficult for personal injury attorneys to show how much pain you’re in, and the cost of all the medical expenses as they add up. 

Reasons People Delay Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney

There are a number of reasons why people put off calling a lawyer after an accident. 

Suing Someone Feels Mean 

When you look at the dollar amount of a lawsuit, it can feel like you’re about to take someone’s home, vehicle, and kids’ college tuition. But most of the time, the money’s not coming out of the at-fault party’s bank account. Unless they are uninsured, their insurance company will pay all or most of your claim.  And think of it this way: If an accident was not your fault, don’t you deserve to have your bills paid for rather than going into debt? 

Lawyers Cost Too Much

Many victims think that hiring a personal injury attorney will be too expensive, but the truth is that a reputable lawyer will offer a free consultation — and will only get paid if you win. In most cases, any money owed to an attorney will come out of your settlement money. 

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Meetings with An Attorney Will Take Up Too Much of My Time

We definitely take our time during an initial consultation to hear a victim’s side of the story. But once we have all the facts and have gathered evidence, it’s our time spent trying to win the case. Clients can take time to heal at home, take care of an injured family member, or go back to work if they’re able and leave the rest to us. 

The Insurance Company Already Offered Me a Settlement

After an accident, insurance companies act quickly to get victims to agree to the amount they want to pay. Unfortunately, that amount is often far below the total of vehicle damages and medical expenses. Once a victim signs a release or waiver accepting an amount, there is no going back for additional money. This is why contacting an attorney before signing on that dotted line is crucial for getting truly fair compensation. 

When You Start a Personal Injury Claim, You Protect Yourself from Any Future Expenses You Incur Due to the Accident

The truth is that even if you feel fine after an accident, it’s impossible to tell what injuries or hardships will come your way. Some accidents don’t have much of a physical effect but cause psychological trauma that lasts for years. Hitting your head might cause just a slight headache at first, but could develop into a lasting brain injury. Whiplash that goes away quickly can show up later as debilitating chronic pain that puts you out of work. 
Hipskind & McAninch will review a case for free, so there is no harm in scheduling a consultation even if injuries don’t seem that bad. If we believe you have a good chance of receiving a settlement, we will get to work right away collecting evidence to avoid an evidence gap. To discuss starting a personal injury claim, contact Hipskind & McAninch today.


Personal Injury


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