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Finding And Preserving Evidence After A Truck Accident Or Car Crash

At Rittgers & Rittgers, we are sometimes asked what separates us from other law firms that claim to handle truck wreck and car crash cases involving catastrophic injuries and deaths. Well, one of the major differences is our attention to detail and our relentless investigation to uncover the truth. Over the next few blog posts, we will be showing our clients how we find and preserve critical evidence in truck accident and car crash cases including evidence that is overlooked by the police and evidence that other law firms do not even know exists.

The first steps that should happen as soon as you hire a lawyer are below. 

The Police Report

One of the most important pieces of evidence in a car or truck accident case is the police report. A properly completed police report will identify the parties involved, their car insurance, potential witnesses, the location of the crash and who the officer determined to be at-fault. In addition, the police report will identify whether the investigating officer took photographs of the vehicles, the scene of the crash or performed an accident reconstruction.

Often, injury victims and their families are of the belief that they must go to the police station or mail in a request for the police report. In Ohio, however, you can usually download a free copy of the police report by going to the following website: https://services.dps.ohio.gov/CrashOnline/CrashRetrieval

911 calls, Photos, Videos and Witness Statements

In many cases, some of the most important pieces of evidence explaining how and why a truck accident or car crash occurred are left out of the police report. For example, most police reports do not include photos of the scene of the crash, witnesses' statements or the 911 call records. In some cases, there can be an eye witness to the accident who did not speak to the police but did call 911 to report the accident. In other situations, statements confirming a driver's negligence after a crash can be left out of the police report but heard and seen in the video footage from the dash camera or officer's body camera.

The police preserve the 911 calls, photos, witness statements, and body camera footage for a very limited time after a crash. That is why it is essential that your attorney immediately request these documents. In many cities throughout Ohio, these critical pieces of evidence can be obtained by filling out an online form and paying a small fee. In Cincinnati, the 911 calls, body camera footage and witnesses' statements can be requested and quickly obtained by going to the following website:

https://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/noncms/digs/records-request/index.cfm?action=public.cpdrequest

The Crash Scene

In some cases, the police overlook critical pieces of evidence including eye-witnesses, potential video of the crash and physical evidence at the scene of the crash. At Rittgers & Rittgers, we often go to the scene of a crash to look for new evidence in disputed liability cases.

For example, in a recent case our client was seriously injured but the insurance claim was denied because the investigating officer couldn't determine who was at-fault. We went to the scene of the crash and found security footage from a local business. The video confirmed that the other driver ran a red light. We were then able to get our client's vehicle repaired and a substantial settlement for her injuries.

In another case, the police determined that our client was at-fault for making a left turn in front of another vehicle. Because of the seriousness of our client's injuries, the police never spoke to him and did not speak to potential witnesses. Our attorney went to the scene of the crash and found an eye witness who confirmed that the crash was not our client's fault. Through the witness, we were able to prove that the other driver was operating his vehicle on a dark road without his headlights thereby causing the crash. As a result, we were able to recover a substantial six-figure settlement for the client.

These examples illustrate why in serious injury and disputed liability cases it is imperative that you hire a skilled injury attorney as soon as possible. Security footage is usually saved for only a few days and potential witnesses can be difficult to discover as time passes.

At Rittgers & Rittgers, we will go to the scene of the crash, if necessary, to look for critical evidence that may have been overlooked. 

This is a continuation of an ongoing blog series we are doing related to the evidence that should be collected following serious traffic crashes. The blog serious illustrates how we find and preserve critical evidence in truck accident and car crash cases including evidence that is overlooked by the police and evidence that other law firms do not even know exists.

Thinking Outside the Box

In any major truck accident or car crash, in addition to the police and emergency medical providers there is an often-overlooked group of people at the scene investigating the crash and speaking to witnesses. Who may that be you ask? The news media.

When watching the evening news, you will routinely see stories about major truck accidents and deadly car crashes that are occurred in greater Cincinnati. The news will often show a video of the scene of the crash including 10-15 second interviews with a witness and the investigating officer. What you don't see is additional footage and witnesses' interviews that did not make the news broadcast.

At Rittgers and Rittgers, we send preservation letters and records requests to every news agency that covers our clients' truck accidents and car crashes for the complete, unedited video footage of the crash including all the witnesses' statements and interviews that were not aired. This can often lead to important physical evidence and eye witnesses that were previously overlooked by the police and insurance company.

Video footage

The most serious truck accidents and car crashes often occur on the major highways and interstates throughout greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Because of the speeds of the vehicles involved, these truck wrecks and car crashes often result in devastating injuries and deaths. All too often in serious injury and wrongful death cases, the at-fault driver will flee the scene or deny responsibility for the crash. In fact, many truck companies have policies in place instructing their truck drivers not to admit fault and to shift blame to the injury victim.

In severe crashes, the victim can suffer incapacitating injuries and not remember how the crash happened. In greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky many of the most severe truck accidents and car crashes on major highways and interstates are caught on camera. Specifically, the Ohio Department of Transportation has cameras strategically located on I-75, I-71, I-275, I-74, US-27, State Route 4, US-50, SR-126, SR-32 and a handful of other roadways.

Unfortunately, the video footage is only stored for three days after the crash unless the investigating officer pulls the video, which does not usually happen. If you or a loved one are involved in a truck wreck or car crash on a major highway or interstate in greater Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky, call Rittgers & Rittgers immediately so that we can quickly investigate the crash and preserve video of the accident.

AccidentMap.jpg

Social Media

Now days, everyone has social media. In many instances, the parties involved in truck wrecks and car crashes will post about their experiences on social media. They even make live videos from the scene of the crash. In other cases, they will post about what they were doing immediately before a crash, which can lead to evidence on how the crash occurred.

For example, our client was involved in a car accident at an intersection. Both our client and the other driver (at-fault driver) disputed who had the right of way. As a result, no one was cited for the crash and the at-fault driver's insurance refused to pay for our client's injuries. We then researched the at-fault driver on social media. We found a video he had taken and posted on his Facebook page shortly before the crash showing him smoking marijuana. We sent the video as well as other damaging posts from the at-fault driver's social media page to his insurance company who in turn accepted responsibility for the crash.

At Rittgers and Rittgers, we make it a policy to investigate the defendant on social media. Many times, the evidence we uncover can help us determine who was at-fault in a crash and help us obtain valuable evidence we can use to show the at-fault driver's bad conduct at trial or to negotiate a fair settlement.

Rapid Response Team

In serious car crash cases - especially truck accidents - the truck company and their insurance carrier will often deploy a team of investigators and adjusters (known as a rapid response team) to the scene of a crash to take witnesses' statements, photograph the scene, take measurements about the crash and attempt to influence and direct the police department who is investigating the crash. To combat these tactics, Rittgers & Rittgers has its own team of investigators and an accident reconstructionist (who are all former law enforcement agents) who can immediately go to the scene of the crash to preserve crucial evidence and to ensure the crash is properly investigated.

This is a continuation of an ongoing blog series we are doing related to the evidence that should be collected following serious traffic crashes. The blog serious illustrates how we find and preserve critical evidence in truck accident and car crash cases including evidence that is overlooked by the police and evidence that other law firms do not even know exists.

Witnesses' Statements

As we explained earlier, we always obtain witnesses' statements from every available resource including the police, social media and the news agencies. In serious injury and disputed liability cases, however, we go one step further. We attempt to personally interview all the major witnesses to a crash to ensure that they did not leave out any details of what happened to the police, 911 or the news media. Sometimes, we have found that these witnesses have a lot more to say and some have even taken photos or videos of the scene of the crash leading to new information about how the crash occurred.

While it may seem elementary to speak directly with all the witnesses, many insurance companies, defense attorneys and even other attorneys who represent injury victims do not take the extra step of speaking directly with witnesses. At Rittgers & Rittgers, you can be assured that we will zealously investigate your case and obtain all available evidence.

Preservation Letters

In many cases, much of the evidence on how or why a truck accident or car crash occurred is in the possession or control of the at-fault driver or trucking company. For example, many tractor trailers now are equipped with black box recording devices, GPS monitoring devices and with video cameras inside and outside of the tractor. We also find that many crashes were caused by drivers who were driving while distracted because they were using an electronic device. Unfortunately, proving that a driver was texting while driving or that a trucking driver was driving longer that allowed by law or driving outside of his lane at the time of crash can be difficult.

To ensure that we get as much evidence as we possibly can about a crash, as soon as we are retained in serious injury and truck accident cases, we immediately send out preservation letters to the trucking company and at-fault driver to preserve their cell phone; their vehicle for a joint inspection; and all black box, video cameras and GPS monitoring devices on the vehicle.

What You Should Do if You Are in A Car Accident

If you are involved in car accident, and are physically able, call 911 and report what happened and where the crash occurred. If there are injuries, request an ambulance. If you can, take photos of the scene of the crash (location of vehicles, skid marks), people and vehicles involved. If there are witnesses to the crash, ask them to stay at the scene to speak to the police. If they cannot, ask them for their name, address and phone number.

If the police are not called or cannot come to the scene, make sure to get the driver's licenses and insurance information of all the drivers involved. If possible, audio or video record their version of what happened. If the police are not called, the at-fault driver will often change his/her story or deny that the crash was his/her fault.

Look at your surrounding for potential video cameras. Most banks and gas stations often have video cameras. If you are in a residential neighborhood, look for security cameras at the homes nearby.

Finally, call Rittgers and Rittgers as soon as possible so that we can ensure that all additional evidence is located and preserved.

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