The best Orlando car accident attorneys know that when it comes to the burden of proof in crash cases, your word alone may not be enough to prove fault or damages. That’s why it’s so critical to involve a lawyer early on in the process, someone who can help you investigate the facts, gather evidence and build a strong case. The sooner we get involved the better, as this gives us time to conduct an independent analysis of the facts, identifying possible witnesses, relevant photos or videos and consulting with expert accident reconstructionists and auto engineers.
Even in cases where liability seems relatively straightforward (for instance, in a rear-end collision where there is a rebuttable presumption the rear driver was responsible), there are still elements of the case that are going to require some independent backing.
This is not to say that conflicting evidence will kill your case, but the more you have to prove the key elements, the stronger your chances of recovering just compensation.
A recent case before the Rhode Island Supreme Court underscores the importance of fathering sufficient evidence at the scene to prove liability.
According to court records, the crash in question occurred in November 2011 at an intersection in Providence, RI. (Although this is an out-of-state case, our Florida accident attorneys know similar principles apply here too.) Plaintiff sustained injuries and filed a complaint against the other driver, alleging she negligently operated her vehicle causing a collision that resulted in plaintiff’s personal injuries. Defendant denied these allegations and raised a number of affirmative defenses.
The case first went to arbitration. This is a mandatory requirement in that state when seeking damages for crash damages, though the arbitrator’s findings aren’t immediately binding and either side can move for litigation beyond that point. Florida does not have this same requirement. In any case, the arbitrator decided the matter in favor of the plaintiff and ordered defendant to pay $7,500. Defendant, however, moved for the case to proceed to civil court.
The case went to trial, and jurors decided the case in favor of the defendant, finding she was not liable for the crash. Plaintiff then filed a motion for a new trial, arguing jurors failed to apply the facts of the law to the case at hand and that defendant should have been found negligent because she had admitted she was driving 30 mph in a 25 mph zone through the intersection. However, defendant pointed out this testimony was conflicting and thus reasonable minds could differ as to the outcome.
The trial court justice denied a new trial, noting he had properly instructed the jury on the law. Although the accounts of the plaintiff and the defendant different greatly (defendant insisted she had a green light at the intersection, while plaintiff argued he had the green light), what it ultimately came down to was a he-said-she-said case. There were no photographs. There were no witness statements. There was no video surveillance footage. What evidence did exist could potentially back either one of their testimonies.
The justice ruled – and the state supreme court later affirmed – that reasonable jurors could have decided the case in either direction, and therefore a new trial wasn’t warranted, meaning the defendant prevailed.
This shows us just how imperative it is for accident victims to be mindful of evidence in the immediate aftermath of a crash. Certainly we recognize that litigation may not be at the forefront of your mind at that juncture, which is why it’s essential to contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Zarembka v. Whelan, Jan. 18, 2017, Rhode Island Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Deadly Auto Accidents in South Florida, Jan. 10, 2017, Orlando Car Accident Attorney Blog