Evidence Preservation Letters
If you’ve suffered a personal injury, you need evidence to prove your claim. Unfortunately, the person or business that harmed you possesses most of the evidence that you need to prove your claim. For instance, if a truck driver collided with your vehicle, that truck driver may possess dashcam video footage of the collision. If you slipped and fell at a business, that business may possess an incident report that identifies the person that witnessed your fall. If a doctor harmed you, the doctor’s office possesses copies of your medical records that explain what went wrong.
Ideally, the person that harmed you would turn over the records that you need without a fight. However, that’s usually not the case. In fact, some defendants alter or destroy records that are harmful to their defenses. Other defendants accidentally fail to preserve some or all of the records or data that you need. The best way to ensure that you receive the records you need is to send the defendant an evidence preservation letter.
Call our Atlanta personal injury lawyers today at (404) 419-6674 to discuss how to use an evidence preservation letter to strengthen your case. Also, you may fill-out our online contact form to schedule a free case review with our team. If you’ve got questions, we’ve got the answers.
What Is An Evidence Preservation Letter?
An evidence preservation letter instructs the defendant to secure records and data that you’ll need to prove your claim. You probably don’t know each one of the exact documents or data files that you might need. However, you should still try to identify them with reasonable specificity. For instance, in a slip and fall case, you’ll typically need to obtain:
- Surveillance footage of your fall
- The incident report
- Witness statements
- Recent floor inspection checklists
- Recent repair estimates or invoices if you were injured by a deteriorating premises condition
In a truck accident case, you’ll typically need to obtain:
- Data from the truck’s electronic data recorder to establish the truck’s speed, brake engagement, and the collision impact severity.
- Dashcam video footage of the collision.
- The truck driver’s daily inspection log to confirm that the truck was free of mechanical defects at the time of the wreck.
- Police officer’s collision inspection report. Also, you’ll need the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) inspection report if they also investigated the collision.
- The truck driver’s qualification file to confirm they were approved to drive the truck. The qualification file should also reveal the driver’s prior driving offenses and their prior employers that may have fired them for unsafe driving.
- Collision damage photos.
- Truck driver’s post-accident drug and alcohol screening results.
- Lease contracts or agreements covering the truck that may identify additional parties that are responsible for causing the collision.
In a medical malpractice case, you’ll need to obtain a copy of your medical records. However, you should also ask the physician group and/or hospital to preserve the audit trail of your medical records. The audit trail reveals each person that accessed your records, when they accessed your records, and whether they modified them.
When Should I Send An Evidence Preservation Letter?
You should send an evidence preservation letter ASAP. The longer you wait to send that letter, the likelier it is that the records you need will be lost, destroyed, or modified.
What If The Defendant Ignores My Letter?
If the defendant ignores your evidence preservation letter, and proceeds to lose, destroy, or modify the records or data that you requested, the court might sanction them. For instance, the court could instruct the jury to assume that the defendant destroyed the records because they were harmful to the defendant’s defenses. Once the jury hears that instruction, they’ll know the defendant is at fault and just trying to hide their culpability. Sometimes, the court even strikes the defendant’s answer which prohibits them from presenting any defense to your claims.
Unfortunately, if you didn’t send the evidence preservation before the records were lost, destroyed, or altered, the court typically won’t sanction the defendant.
What If The Defendant Sends Me An Evidence Preservation Letter?
Increasingly, defense lawyers are sending evidence preservation letters to injury victims. For instance, if you were injured in a slip and fall accident, the defense might ask you to preserve your footwear, clothing, and cell phone. If you were injured in an auto collision, the defense might request that you not drive your vehicle until they have the opportunity to inspect it.
If you receive an evidence preservation letter, you should immediately notify your lawyer. Your lawyer will review the letter and ensure that the requested items are preserved. If you received the letter before you hired a lawyer, you should do your best to comply with the requests. Then, you should hire a lawyer ASAP and give them a copy of the letter. That way, you’ll avoid the risk of sanctions.
Allen & Scofield Injury Lawyers Can Help You
At Allen & Scofield Injury Lawyers, we know how to obtain every piece of evidence that you need to prove your claim. If the defendant lost, destroyed, or altered key evidence, we will expose their misconduct and ask the court to sanction them. We’ll also help you ensure that you preserve the evidence the defense has requested from you.