You’ve got to act fast to preserve evidence in injury cases. As Spartanburg, South Carolina accident injury attorneys, preventing evidence from vanishing is our primary concern the instant we're hired.
While the last thing on your mind when you get seriously hurt is making sure evidence doesn’t get lost, forgotten, or destroyed, that’s exactly what happens sometimes. It can destroy your case, because the victim has the responsibility to prove fault in causing the injury and the extent of the injuries.
In general, South Carolina law says parties have a responsibility to preserve evidence for cases. Sadly, you can’t count on at-fault parties or their insurance company to do the right thing. But luckily, there is a way to notify these parties to preserve crtitcal evidence in your case before it disappears. And if it does anyway, there can be legal consequences. The trick is, you've got to know what to ask for, who to send it to, and send it immediately.
Preserving Evidence has a Legal Name in South Carolina Accident Injury Cases
South Carolina law has a name for when a party loses or destroys important evidence: spoliation. It’s related to the word “to spoil,” because when evidence is lost your case can be spoiled, just like leftover milk that was misplaced on the counter for a couple days.
It’s vital to make sure the at fault party, also called the defendant, and the insurance company knows immediately you’re looking for this critical evidence. Eperienced injury lawyers know to send a spoliation of evidence letter to the defendant and his insurance carrier when necessary, without delay. When we send one, we send it to the insurance adjuster and the defendant itself, which can mean a business's local management, or even its CEO/president at headquarters, or both.
If you're wondering about needing a spoliation letter for your case in or near Spartanburg, South Carolina, it costs nothing to get this critical question answered. You can contact us with a live chat, fill out a Get Help Now form, or call toll free at 888-230-1841.
Why Is It So Important to Send This Letter as Soon as Possible?
Because in certain cases the data can expire or, even worse, vanish without an explanation. Here's a couple typical scenarios we've got to protect our clients against:
- Preserving evidence can be critical in semi-trailer and 18-wheeler trucking accident cases, where it can be essential to read data from the black box, the computer that measures certain key events leading up to an accident, including speed and whether the trucker hit the brakes in time. Needless to say, this evidence can be vital to proving fault and possibly even provide evidence justifying punitive damages.
- Let's say a bar owner has video surveillance set up in the bar. If there's an accident where his bartender overserved a patron who left the bar and injured someone in a drunk-driving crash, then clearly the victim (or his surviving family, if the accident was fatal) wants that video footage. It can prove fault by showing the customer was served drink after drink when he was obviously intoxicated.
Having this evidence for your case can help you prove your right to a settlement, or an even better one. For that reason, common sense tells us human nature can take over. The delete button gets pushed. If you don't move fast to get that evidence preserved, it’s too easy for the trucking company or bar owner to say they had no idea you needed the evidence, and it was unintentionally lost, accidentally erased, or recorded over.
But if you sent a spoliation letter, the tables are turned. You wave that around, saying "Oh yes you did know!" All of a sudden, they've got a potentially big problem, because it looks like they're trying to hide or destroy evidence proving wrongdoing.
In this situation, there can be serious legal consequences. At trial, if you can prove the other side failed to preserve material evidence, the judge can instruct the jury they can decide the lost or destroyed evidence would have been favorable to your case. If the jury decides that in your favor, you can bet they won't like the defendants very much, which can be reflected in the amount of the verdict they award you.
In the most severe cases of lost evidence, where the injured person can show that the other side intentionally destroyed evidence to prevent it from being used in a lawsuit, a judge can strike the defendant’s answer—meaning the victim does not have to prove fault, and only has to prove the amount they should recover as a result of the other side’s fault.
The Impact of Lost Evidence Depends on the Specifics of Each Case
It's easier to show certain types of evidence should have been kept for trial. A prime example is records the law requires to be kept in a certain way for a certain period of time, like trucker driving logs. When records like that vanish within the period of time that they should have been kept, your chances of proving spoliation skyrocket.
In other cases, it may not be as clear.- unless you've sent that spoliation letter Take the case we talked about earlier: the bar that overserved a customer who hurt you in a DUI-related car accident. Say the security camera was programmed to re-record over itself every 30 days. If the bar doesn't know about your car accident case, is it unreasonable to allow the video to re-record over itself? What is the standard bars and restaurants should follow? Unless the bar owner is given immediate notice, he’s got a solid argument he had no obligation to preserve the video. At best, you can expect a lot of courtroom wrangling over what the bar owner should have known, and the video evidence will still be lost.
One way to guarantee that the owner should have known to save the video is to send a spoliation letter requesting the preservation of the video before 30 days pass.
Each case is different, but here's other types of injury cases where spoliation letters should be sent early:
- Slip and fall and trip and fall acccidents
- Drunk driving and DUI-related car accidents, especially for police investigation evidence
- Defective product liability cases
Why Chance It? Call a Legal Professional for Free Advice
If you've been injured in an accident, you've got a lot at stake. It's too much to risk leaving your potential settlement to chance. ACT FAST BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.
If you're seriously hurt in South Carolina, contact us to get your questions answered. All you risk is losing a little time, because it's FREE, and it could make all the difference in the outcome of your one chance to do your case right. Call toll free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form.