Yesterday I talked about the 25+ photographs you must have in order to prove your personal injury or property damage case. Today let’s discuss why doing an investigation is so important. I will use a wrongful death case to demonstrate the critical nature of knowing the facts and talking to the witnesses.
A call came in from a Chicago lawyer asking me to assist with a northeast Iowa client’s accident. The accident happened in Wisconsin and involved three semi-trucks, a mini-van and a sedan. Our client’s husband was one of the semi-truck driver’s; both driver’s died in this head-on crash. My guy’s truck was heading south on a two-lane northeastern Wisconsin road. The northbound driver came across the center line striking our client’s truck. For purposes of this discussion let us assume the other driver is the at-fault driver.
His insurance company informed me the reason he came across the center line was that the passenger side front tire blew causing the truck to overcorrect and forcing him to suddenly and without any warning go across the center line. The adjuster claimed a witness heard the tire blow. The adjuster had a mechanic remove the tires to preserve them.
The next day I flew to northeastern Wisconsin to investigate. Locating the mechanic he and I reviewed how he removed the tires and marked them. In the process of reviewing what he did it became clear to him, that he’d mixed up the front tires and in fact the tire that was damaged was the one involved in the initial impact. The reason the tire had blown was the impact between the two semi-trucks.
But what about the loud bang that witness heard?
I located the witness who lived in a house where the accident happened. He was raking his leaves and agreed to review his recorded statement. He raked, I read and we talked. It didn’t take long for him to appreciate that in fact he hadn’t heard a tire blow. What he heard were the rear-view mirrors hitting as the first two semi-truck’s passed as the at-fault driver began coming towards the center line. This witness was now willing to testify, under oath, that the loud sound, the bang he initially heard had to be the two mirrors slapping. His initial assumption had omitted the timing and location of when the sound was heard.
With this information, I then approached the driver of the first semi-truck. He told me he looked right at the driver of the at-fault semi-truck and he was falling asleep.
We settled for $650,000.00. It was an investigation I was proud to be a part of. It’s one I will never forget.
It is likely the most important decision a client makes is when to hire a lawyer to handle their personal injury case. There are times when waiting or delaying the decision makes no difference, but there are other times when delaying even one day allows evidence to be destroyed. Destruction of evidence may be innocent, but when it comes to the burden of proof, a lack of evidence will nevertheless destroy a case or diminish the likelihood it can be proven.
ADDITIONAL LAW FIRM BLOGS ABOUT PERSONAL INJURY INVESTIGATION
- Lawyer to Lawyer - The Lawyer's Toolbox - Accident Investigation – What do I do with this case?
- Madison County Accident raises a question: Can I totally rely on the State Trooper’s investigation?
- In Many Cases, Trial Lawyers Are Made By How Well They Investigate The Accident
- Why are officers reluctant to investigate cell phone usage by the drivers when an accident has happened?