$157 THOUSAND

Personal Injury Claim

JR was offered a settlement of $35,000. The jury returned a verdict in her favor for $157,000, a net verdict over two times the amount offered by the RTB’s insurance company.

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An accident and personal injury is an unexpected shock. When it happens, your world turns upside down in an instant. You may have a hard time thinking rationally, especially if you or loved ones have suffered serious injuries. The last thing you are likely to be thinking about is making a record of exactly what happened and gathering evidence.

But that is exactly what you must do as soon as possible. If your injuries or the loss of a loved one becomes an actionable legal claim due to another’s negligence, all evidence of fault by the other party or parties must be kept safe. You must preserve all the evidence.

The Many Faces of Modern Evidence

It used to be that preserving evidence might include copies of a police report, paperwork from doctors, perhaps photos taken with your camera and a file folder with additional significant papers—all of them hard copy. But these days, we have a dizzying array of digital evidence to preserve—data on computer hard drives, posts and photos on social media, emails, voice mails, text messages, faxes, network or system logs, photos and videos taken with phones or other devices, data recorders from vehicles—the list may seem endless. We have information that will help you with evidence preservation.

Physical Evidence to Preserve

Physical evidence is something you can touch or see. It is essential to preserve physical evidence right from the first moment. Depending on your case, such evidence could be:

  • The actual damage to your vehicle/bike/etc., meaning in its unaltered, unrepaired state. It is extremely important to preserve the damaged physical item. If for some reason you cannot preserve it, you need photos of the damage that have the time and date recorded on them. You can place a digital watch in the picture if your camera does not automatically record the time and date.
  • Photos of the accident scene, whether it is a traffic intersection or a floor where you slipped and fell, from as many angles as possible. Don’t forget photos of skid marks, broken car parts, and the surroundings. Take photos of anything that caused the injuries, including, for example, any substances on the floor that might have caused you to slip and fall.
  • Bloody, torn, or burned clothing from the accident.
  • Copies of any police reports.
  • Photos of the injuries, taken over a number of hours, days, or even weeks, to show the progression of damage and healing. It can take a while for bruising to show up fully; it is important to document the process.
  • Copies of medical reports and records relevant to the injury. These can include reports made by paramedics and the emergency room staff, doctors’ notes, examination results, test results, and the details of the doctor’s diagnosis and prognosis, as well as the opinions of specialists.
  • In defective product cases, all packaging, receipts that prove purchase, instruction manuals, and warranties.
  • Any relevant public records, such as driving records.
  • The vehicle’s data recorder. Just about every car these days has one. Make sure yours is kept in a safe place.
  • Your own personal written statement of what happened.

Digital Evidence to Preserve

The list of possible digital evidence is long. Digital devices are integrated into our daily lives, along with the use of social media on the internet. The following list is by no means exhaustive, nor will all items apply to your case. However, the list is meant to stress that anything and everything digital that is related to your accident must be preserved. Be certain to keep all of the following digital evidence (also called electronically stored information, or ESI) related to your accident and injury:

  • All digital communications: email, voice mail, and instant messaging.
  • Text messages and photographs on your cell phone.
  • Any document, spreadsheet, or other files resident on your computer. Examples are .DOC and .EXE files.
  • All audio files, such as .MP3 and .WAV files.
  • All video files, such as .AVI and .MOV files.
  • Image files (photos) and facsimile files. Examples are .PDF, .JPG, .GIF, and .TIFF files.
  • Databases
  • Contact information on both computers and phones.
  • Electronic calendars and diaries.
  • Data related to online access, such as files containing history, cookies, and temporary internet files.
  • Network and server activity logs.
  • Archived files such as .ZIP files.
  • Any and every relevant item on all social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are commonly-used social media sites, but others exist as well.

It is always best if you can provide hard copies of all digital information along with the digital form.

A Word about Witnesses

“Preserving” witnesses can help you, too. If you know that your accident and injury was witnessed by another, or if you locate a witness, ask them if they are willing to make a statement on your behalf. If so, write down their contact information so they can be contacted to make an official statement.

Witness information can be quite powerful. Sometimes witnesses have information that you don’t, such as overhearing the other driver say they’d been texting. Collect witness information, or have someone collect it for you, as soon as possible after the accident that caused your injury.

Final Things to Keep in Mind

When it comes to a personal injury case, remember that your claim depends on evidence—and the preservation of that evidence—that shows the other party’s negligence. Such evidence must clearly demonstrate that your injuries arose from the other party’s wrongful actions or omissions.

If injuries are serious, the sooner you retain an attorney, the better, in order to forestall spoliation of evidence. Spoliation is defined as evidence that is destroyed by the at-fault party. Your attorney will send a spoliation letter that will put the other party “on notice.” A spoliation letter makes it harder for the other party to argue in court that any evidence was “accidentally” destroyed.

Evidence that can be destroyed is not only physical. Data and files can be deleted or wiped from computers, phones, and other devices. Hard drives can be reformatted or defragged/compressed, thus eliminating files. Emails can be purged. Backup digital media can be destroyed or disposed of. Software called metadata strippers can delete crucial information from emails and other digital communication. (Metadata is basic information about the data, such as the author of the data, the date it was created, and the date it was modified.)

Finally, remember that evidence can cut both ways. Do not discuss your case on the internet, especially on any form of social media. The internet has no secrets. Once something is posted, you could be guilty of spoliation of evidence if you delete it or otherwise remove it from the internet, and you could face serious legal repercussions.

 

real-life cases

“B.K.” was driving on a two-lane road one Sunday afternoon with his mother in the front seat and his brother and sister-in-law in the back seat when his life was forever changed. B.K. was struck head on by D.C.

D.C. had spent the day drinking with a friend and had stopped at a restaurant less than five miles from the point of the accident where D.C. had been served several drinks. D.C.’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

As a result of the terrible wreck, B.K. received devastating injuries, which included multiple broken bones, facial fractures, and loss of vision. B.K.’s mother, brother, and sister-in-law were all killed in the accident.

As one would anticipate, D.C. had virtually no insurance. Stephenson, through his thorough and detailed investigation, was able to prepare claims against the restaurant and those that provided the alcohol.

Stephenson pursued dram shop claims against those responsible CASE SUMMARY

D.H. was a competitive bicyclist who was riding in preparation for a cross-country fundraising ride. In the spring of 2010, D.H. was riding across an old steel-grated deck bridge in Shelby County when he hit a hole in the bridge and flipped over the handlebars of his bike. The impact to the bridge decking caused severe injuries to his face, teeth, tongue, and elbow.

Through the investigation, they were able to learn as early as 1998, the bridge inspection reports showed the bridge in question needed to be replaced. The county never authorized additional inspections. The county obtained $844,000 in funding for the replacement of the bridge in 2000, but the Historical Society and adjacent property owners wanted the bridge repaired rather than replaced.

This crash could have been avoided if the inspectors and county had done their jobs. CASE SUMMARY

Our client (“D.W.”) was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle that was struck by a UDF truck making deliveries. D.W. received broken arms and legs, as well as internal injuries. Stephenson was retained by D.W.’s personal counsel to prepare and try the case. Discovery determined that the UDF driver had multiple driving violations. Stephenson retained numerous experts to show the jury the devastating effects of the injuries. Before trial, the defendant’s company stated that a jury in a small southern county in Indiana would never return a verdict for $1 million in this case.

The defendant was correct; the verdict was twice that amount. CASE SUMMARY

Serving Personal Injury Victims and Their Families in Indiana Since 1982.

If someone else’s negligence caused or contributed to the situation which made you suffer an injury, or in which a loved one died, you should not be the one to bear the associated costs. Injuries could include both economic and non-economic damages. “Economic damages” are things such as past and future medical bills; the cost of rehabilitation; assistive devices and prostheses; and lost wages. Typical “non-economic” damages are compensation for pain and suffering and for mental anguish resulting from the injury.

When you are considering hiring a personal injury lawyer, you should look for an attorney who will give you competent and compassionate representation with a “client first” approach. That’s exactly what you’ll get with proven advocate attorney Mike Stephenson. His entire legal team is committed to doing whatever is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Don’t lose the opportunity to obtain the money you need to put your life back on track and to make your family’s future financially secure. Call Mike Stephenson at 1-317-825-5200 or contact us for immediate help.

 

Updates
Personal Injury Lawyer
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Mike Stephenson is a Super Lawyer in Indiana along with many of his peers at McNeely Stephenson. This is one of the highest honors an attorney can achieve

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Attorney Mike Stephenson is a proud member of The Litigation Counsel of America’s Honorary Society. A close-knit, peer-selected, and aggressively diverse honorary society of 3,500 of the “best trial lawyers” in the country. Less than one-half of one percent of American lawyers, vigorously vetted for skills, expertise, and service; an invitation-only collegial network.

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Our attorneys are proven advocates and trial attorneys. They have served as lead trial counsel in more than 100 civil jury trials, and have handled litigation in 18 states