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Shapiro & Appleton

Forensics: What Do the Forensic Files, CSI- Crime Scene Investigation Have to do with Personal Injury?

Virginia's best accident injury lawyersAs a personal injury lawyer I like to watch a show on Court TV called “The Forensic Files” but also it seems that “CSI - Crime Scene Investigation” and similar forensic evidence shows are maintaining great popularity with the public. "Forensic" is defined as "pertaining to, connected with, or used in courts of law or public discussion and debate," and the word forensic is used hand in hand with "evidence law" that is needed to win cases.

While the typical personal injury case may not involve fingerprints, hair-fiber analysis, or DNA testing, forensic research often “solves” (read as helps “resolve”) many types of personal injury cases with better compensation to our clients through our lawyers’ forensic research. It is just that the forensic evidence issues for a personal injury lawyer takes a slightly different form than in a murder case investigation. Various examples of the sophisticated and detailed legal work our attorneys do in personal injury cases are as follows:


Forensic Issue:
Was a parked tractor trailer pulled fully off the interstate highway onto the shoulder or was it located several feet inside the far right lane?
Forensic Investigation:

Given that our truck operator client was seriously and permanently injured, and he claimed that another tractor trailer operator had not fully pulled off the highway, the key issue was how to prove his contention. The answer was to obtain an accident recontruction expert and examine all of the scuffs, skids and marks, not only on the surface of the highway, but by comparing the location of the highway scuff and skid marks to existing collision damage on each of the tractor trailers.
Did weather play a part? To evaluate whether patchy fog was in the area, our firm obtained weather studies to confirm the contention that fog also may have affected our clients ability to see the tractor trailer on the side of the road.


By proving our forensics, our attorneys were able to obtain a very substantial settlement for our tractor trailer operator who was catastrophically injured, convincing the other party’s insurance company that the tractor trailer may not have been fully on the shoulder of the highway.


Forensic Issue:
A seventy-five year old woman dies of asbestos-induced mesothelioma lung disease but did not know whether she had worked around asbestos in any of her previous occupations.

Forensic Investigation:
When the Estate of the deceased woman contacted us about her mesothelioma death, we knew that she had worked for a well-known railroad as a secretary and clerk for twenty to thirty years. We were not sure if asbestos was located in one of the key train stations where she had worked. Accordingly, we filed Freedom of Information Act requests to the state government, which subsequently purchased the railroad terminal where she had once worked. We heard rumors that major asbestos abatement and removal was done from the train station, although it took place ten years after she worked there. After our personal injury lawyers carefully analyzing the materials with an industrial hygienist, we were convinced that several sources of asbestos were located in the terminal was her railroad workplace, which was verified by the subsequent asbestos removal.

We convinced the railroad to pay a substantial sum to the Estate of the deceased secretary/clerk who contracted mesothelioma cancer, caused by asbestos.

Forensic Issue:

The client was in a recent accident, an MRI was performed and the doctor decided our injured client may need neck surgery. However, our injured client was in a car accident seven years prior to this car accident and the insurance company does not want to pay because they claim that the problem was pre-existing.

Forensic Investigation:
We discussed with the injury client all of her prior medical care and learned that there was a neck MRI done six years prior to the new accident. We obtained the MRI from before, obtained the current MRI, and placed them both in the hands of a neuroradiologist, a specialist who examines radiology, especially MRI’s and CT Scan’s. The neuroradiologist told us that clearly there was an additional new disk herniation visible in the current MRI which had not been present in the previous MRI.

We obtained a very significant settlement for our person injury client disproving that the pre-existing condition was significant or that there was a disc herniation previous to the new accident.

Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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