In emergency medical situations, time is everything. With a catastrophic injury, minutes and seconds can mean the difference between recovery and permanent injury, or even between life and death.
The same principle is often true in investigating an accident involving a catastrophic injury or death to protect yourself and your right to recovery. Critical evidence can become lost or damaged if not preserved in the days immediately following an accident. Having an experienced catastrophic injury attorney begin the investigation immediately is like emergency medical assistance – it can mean the chance at preserving all the evidence and your chance for a complete recovery. Our firm has years of experience and a team of experts on hand to begin investigating virtually any catastrophic injury or fatality. Here is a brief summary of our firm’s approach to auto accident investigation, why we do what we do, and why it is important to begin this process immediately. The same principle is true for how we investigate fire and product defect cases as well.
We receive a call about a terrible automobile accident the day before. Our client’s family member is in ICU with a traumatic brain injury. Our first meeting is one of prayer and compassion with the family and to tell them to focus all their attention on caring for their loved one while we take care of investigating the accident. Our firm handles all the expense and manpower needed to investigate the accident while allowing the family to focus 100% on their loved one’s recovery.
Our next call is to our lead investigator, a retired state trooper who investigated traffic fatalities, to go to the scene, take photos, locate the vehicle, interview witnesses, and talk with law enforcement who worked the accident. There is a good chance our injured driver will not remember the accident, and witness memories fade if not recorded immediately. Likewise, evidence at the scene – tire marks, ruts in the shoulder of the road, debris from the accident – these things will all naturally get cleared away as time goes on, even though they are evidence of how the accident happened. If there is roadwork in the area or dangerous roadway conditions contributed to the accident, it will almost certainly be cleaned up and repaired very soon after the accident.
Once the vehicle is located, we immediately send a preservation of evidence letter to the salvage yard and to the insurance company who insured the car so the vehicle cannot be moved or destroyed. Anytime there is a terrible injury or death in an automobile accident, we investigate the crashworthiness of the car to see if the design of the car or lack of a common safety feature in some way contributed to our client’s injury. Tire failure and ignition or steering failure can sometimes be the cause of a single vehicle accident. Failure of seatbelts, airbags, and support beams in the vehicle can often make injuries in an accident much worse or even fatal. Often simple and inexpensive safety features are left off of cars in order to save a few dollars per car by the manufacturer. These can make the difference between an accident with minor injuries and one with major injuries or even death. Without immediately sending notice to leave the vehicle as it is, insurance companies will often pay off the car and have it sold for salvage before the vehicle’s safety can be evaluated.
If our initial investigation leads us to believe another party was at fault in the accident or that the vehicle did not adequately protect our client, we send an accident reconstruction expert to the scene and the vehicle to completely recreate the accident. This includes determining the speed and position of the vehicle at every moment before and through the accident. We also employ experts in vehicle safety to evaluate each part of the car’s safety system including tires, seatbelts, airbags, and the structure of the car. It is not uncommon for an accident report to say that a seatbelt was not worn when in fact evidence on the belt shows that it was being used but failed.
We pursue cases on one of two theories: 1. The accident was the fault of another party- either another driver, the road builder, or the vehicle itself caused the accident, or 2. Even if our client caused the accident, his or her injuries should not have been as severe as they were if the car or product had adequate safety features. At this point, we meet with our clients to discuss pursuing the matter further. We also help our clients get the specialized care they need to make the best medical recovery possible. Our attorneys have worked for years with world renowned brain injury specialists, vocational and physical therapists, and other medical specialists to get our clients first rate care. We also work with a life care planner who is able to coordinate all the care for our client and present a plan for all future care that will be needed as a result of the injury. This is an important piece of the damages we present to the jury in a case because the ongoing care and attention in catastrophic injury cases can easily reach into the tens of millions of dollars over a lifetime.
As you can see, the personal injury attorneys at Jinks, Crow and Dickson, PC, take representing our clients seriously. We are with our clients from the beginning through the end, and we handle the cost and manpower of investigating and pursuing the case. While they are focused on their family, we are working tirelessly to preserve their right to recovery with the leading experts in the country. When they need help transitioning from urgent care to long term recovery and care, we work with them at every step through that process as well.
During such a difficult time, most families are focused only on their loved one’s care and safety, which is as it should be. We regularly investigate auto accidents, fires, and product defect cases several months after the accident, and we have success with pursuing many of them. But we have the best chance of success in evaluating a case and pursuing it if someone from the family can take just a few minutes during those first few days to reach out and tell us to start our investigation sooner rather than later.
In medical emergencies, early diagnosis and intervention is crucial. The same principle often applies to investigating accidents as well.