Personal injury evidence must be gathered in a systematic and organized manner and checklists are one way of doing this. I think they keep us mindful of certain things that need to be done on each and every case. In addition, they keep the personal injury lawyer from forgetting to uncover every stone that might provide useful information to gain maximum monetary recovery for their client. Here is a simplified version of my basic index as follows:
- Obtain the information of all persons involved including names, addresses, telephone numbers, driver’s license numbers, Vehicle Identification Numbers of both parties and witnesses.
- Examine Automobile Insurance Policy coverages including: medical payments, rental, collision, and uninsured motorist coverage for my client and bodily injury and liability coverage for any drivers at fault.
- Look at Health Insurance coverage for my client.
- Determine if there are any “excess” or “umbrella” policies that may pay above the base amount in the auto insurance.
- Obtain employment payroll and earnings records.
- Get all hospital and other medical records via a HIPAA compliant authorization request for both the treatment and any pertinent medical history.
- Examine auto repair estimates and bills and valuation summaries in case of a total loss.
- Photograph the damaged vehicles, the scene of the incident, the injuries (including a photographic history).
- If possible, obtain video coverage of the incident from local news and internet sources.
- Obtain as much information from the client as to how this has affected their ability to conduct their daily life at home, at work and otherwise.
- Obtain California Department of Motor Vehicle records as follows: Traffic Accident Report (SR-1 Form), Registered Ownership records (CA DMV Form INF 70R/1), Evidence of “Financial Responsibility” (i.e. auto insurance coverage) of the drivers and owners and or a certificate of no insurance (CA DMV Form SR-19), driver’s license information and record of citations and prior accidents regarding any potential parties at fault (CA DMV Form INF 70D/1).
- If a company vehicle is involved, the California Secretary of State‘s records should be reviewed as to company status (i.e. corporations, partnerships, dba (doing business as), etc.).
Why is it important to gather at least this much, basic information regarding an accident claim?
While the above list is certainly not everything an accident attorney may need to evaluate the claim depending upon the case, it is certainly a baseline from which to work. Competent legal counsel familiar with negligence claims know that it is only after this information is obtained that certain matters can be determined such as the following:
- What are the extent of the injuries and is this affected by any pre-existing medical conditions.
- What is the total amount of insurance coverage from all sources that the wounded party might seek to pay for costs of treatment both present and future.
- How does the photographic depiction of the injuries, the property damage and the site of occurrence bolster the arguments for damages.
- What should be a fair amount for “general damages” for pain, suffering, anxiety, emotional distress and disruption of lifestyle.
- Who are all the potential defendants or parties against whom a claim may be presented.