The difference between having a successful settlement with an insurance company on a car wreck case or on an injury at a store in Virginia (VA) or North Carolina (NC) often depends upon the injury lawyer’s access to independent witnesses who will verify what happened to the person when they got injured. Often this key information is lost because the person involved in the car wreck or the falling merchandise case at a store never got the name, phone number and address of the other motorist or customer who saw the event. You should not assume that the police officer will necessarily get the name of the witnesses who say that they saw the accident, even in a red light/green light case where such information may be critical. Even if the police officer does write the name and phone number down of a key witness, they may not put it on the police report but rather only in their field notes. Thus it is critical that the injury lawyer for the person hurt in the car wreck get in touch with the police officer to get that information before it becomes lost, stale or discarded. The key is to contact the witness while the information is still fresh in their mind and make sure that they can be reached later if necessary to give a statement to the insurance company or be a witness in court as needed.
Similarly, the store manager may not bother to keep the information about the other customer who saw the wood fall down on your client’s head in the store. The business’ employee may well deliberately fail to keep this information, if they think it will be helpful to a person who may be making a claim against the store. Once it becomes clear that there is a serious injury and that the person is making an insurance claim, the store managers and employees may get together to help bolster the store’s side of the case by remembering the facts in a way helpful to the store’s effort to claim that it was not at fault in causing the injury. We have seen exactly that happen recently in a significant case against a store in North Carolina in which our client has a brain injury. Conveniently for the store, they and their lawyers end up finding close to the trial date some employees whose statements seem to make the accident sound like our client’s fault. Unfortunately, in that case, we do not have any independent witnesses to verify that the client didn’t pull the wood down on himself.
In another recent case involving serious injuries, like a fractured hip and a ruptured spleen, the good news is that we were hired quickly and got in touch with the key witnesses right away. The case involved a lady who ran through a red light hitting our client in a T-bone fashion. The lady essentially claimed to the police officer that she wasn’t sure if she had the green light or not. If it weren’t for our good fortune in having some independent witnesses, it might have ended up being a case that we had to litigate through a jury trial with a chance of losing because the jury wouldn’t know whom to believe. In that case the client had the terrific luck of having a Henrico County, Virginia deputy sheriff following behind the lady who ran the red. Although the Hanover County sheriff who investigated the crash did not have the other officer’s information on the police report, that information was in his field notes. As quickly as possible after we were hired we found out the information for the key independent witness and got in touch with him. For good measure we also found several other witnesses who could confirm that our client had the green light. This is certainly the best practice for a personal injury lawyer to make sure to have as many independent witnesses as possible verify that your client is not a fault and the other side is. That way there is no chance that the insurance company and defendant can try to wiggle out of their responsibility for the injury.
Shapiro & Appleton& Duffan personal injury law firm is based in Virginia practicing primarily in the southeastern U.S. and handles only injury law, including car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases and more. The firm's website is: hsinjurylaw.com, the firm edits two injury law blogs: Virginia Beach Injuryboard & Norfolk Injuryboard, and also hosts a video library covering many FAQ’s on personal injury subjects.