In the aftermath of any serious accident the immediate rush is to obtain proper medical care and attention. As the days and weeks go by some individuals (or their families) may seek legal consultation. In a separate post, I am going to address the questions you should consider during that consultation.
As lawyers, we are immediately focused on the availability of evidence to help evaluate your claim to determine how we can assist.
Some claims, such as a serious car accident, will have been investigated by the police who may have undertaken reconstruction reports and identified witnesses that can be helpful.
However, in many claims that information does not exist.
This is especially so for slip and fall claims that may not have been immediately or properly investigated.
To help avoid these evidentiary challenges, below are some reminders when it comes to the initial investigation stage. In the aftermath of a traumatic accident you may not be able to take all of these steps, but even taking some of them will be helpful if you pursue a legal claim later on.
If you hire a lawyer, we will always take over these steps on your behalf.
A. Report The Incident
Always report the incident. The exact reporting requirements may vary. If it’s an incident on private or public property, always report the situation to whoever is in control of the premises.
Motor vehicle accidents must be reported to the police or collision reporting centres. Once reported, the potential defendant is unable to argue they were not aware of the situation and conduct an investigation. Moreover, your report will likely trigger the defendant to report your claim to its insurers who can begin reviewing their potential liability and setting reserves where appropriate.
B. Identifying Witnesses
Securing witness information is of critical importance. I can’t overstate how valuable an independent witness can be to proving your case. All too frequently, I hear about a potential witness who assisted an accident victim and would clearly have valuable information but cannot be located. Many claims are resolved on the strength of credible witness information alone.
C. Preserve Surveillance
In many cases there will be surveillance video of an accident. Sometimes you can request this yourself. Other times it may be difficult to obtain. The earlier you ask for surveillance the better the chances that it will be preserved. There is a strange tendency for surveillance to disappear (I am not casting aspersions).
Hiring a lawyer early is helpful as we often have a better opportunity to secure this information and can hire investigators where appropriate.
D. Document What Happened
Even if there are no witnesses and no surveillance you should still document exactly what happened to the best of your memory. This will help to preserve your own memory later on and can be useful if the Defendants later argue that your version of the events was only recently formulated. Be meticulous when reviewing details as every piece of information may be relevant.
E. Ask For The Incident Report
If you reported the incident (see reminder ‘A.” above) there will likely be an incident report generated. Try and get a copy. Frequently, the wrongdoer will admit shortfalls or mistakes in that document, which can be very helpful in litigation.
F. Document Injuries Through Immediate Medical Consultations
It goes without saying that if you have a personal injury claim you will need to document your injuries and seek medical attention. Many a case has been lost because the Plaintiff failed to take appropriate steps to document their injuries early and often.
G. Send Formal Notice Letters
Formal legal notice letters are required under certain legislation (which is beyond the scope of this article) to commence pre-judgment interest obligations. Notice is also required to preserve certain claims. It is highly recommend that you consult with a lawyer to assist with this as early as possible.
H. Consult With A Lawyer And Hire A Lawyer Where Appropriate
The steps set out above are complicated and as the victim you should be focused on your immediate medical needs. The most important thing to do is consult with a lawyer. Reputable personal injury lawyers will provide a free consultation and help assess your claims. I am personally happy to do so for anyone who thinks they may have a personal injury claim.
Thomson Rogers offers free consultations so please feel free to reach out to us at any time. We are here to help.
Thomson Rogers partner Stephen Birman has been recognized as a Certified Specialist in Civil Litigation by the Law Society of Ontario and ranked AV pre-eminent in Martindale-Hubbell ®. Stephen’s practice focuses on personal injury litigation and class actions. You can reach Stephen at 416-868-3137 or by EMAIL.
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