Preserve Evidence and Take Photos
If you are involved in an accident or injury that may have been caused by someone's carelessness, preserving any physical evidence of the incident and your injuries can support your position in any legal claim you may decide to pursue. It is important to do this as soon as possible after the incident, because circumstances can change quickly: accident scenes can be altered, memory can become unreliable, and evidence can be overlooked or misplaced over time.
Though taking the time to do these things may be the last thing on your mind soon after what may be a traumatic experience, these actions can be very beneficial should you decide to pursue a legal claim for your injuries. (Note: If you are unable to act quickly due to injuries or medical treatment, you might ask a loved one or close friend to help you follow the suggestions described below.)
What Should You Keep?
The first step to take in protecting evidence of your injury is to make sure that every physical item is preserved, including torn clothing, broken equipment, and important documents. As an illustration, here are some steps to take after a number of common injuries:
Motor Vehicle Accidents: After a car accident, take photos of the scene, your injuries, and any property damage. In addition, get copies of all medical records pertaining to your treatment after the accident, keep copies of property damage estimates and repairs records, and obtain a copy of any police report that is made (more on police reports).
Defective Consumer Products: If you are injured by a faulty product such as a household appliance, be sure to preserve the item in the same condition it was in when the incident occurred. In addition, keep all written instructions, warnings, labels, and packaging that accompanied the item. If you can, try to locate the original sales receipt for the item. If you cannot find the receipt in your own personal records, ask the seller if they have a copy.
Medical Malpractice/Birth Injuries: In a medical malpractice or birth injury case, keep or obtain copies of all medical records that pertain to the medical treatment at issue, as well as those related to any second or third opinions obtained from other health care providers. Also, in cases where a physical injury is visible, be sure to take photos that depict any evidence of potentially improper medical treatment.
A Picture is Worth. . .
Remember that preserving physical evidence itself may not always be possible in every case involving an accident or injury. For example, the main causes of a "slip and fall" incident may be uneven pavement on a sidewalk, or the absence of a handrail and sufficient lighting in a stairway. In these situations, your best option is to take clear and detailed photographs of the area where the injury occurred, from multiple angles, and ideally under the same conditions (i.e. time of day, lighting, and weather).