The normally brutal traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge was even more brutal following a multi-vehicle collision that shut down the eastbound lanes for several hours and caused significant rubbernecking delays on the westbound side.
Few details were available about the crash. Several vehicles were in several pieces on the bridge. A 30-year-old man, who was ejected from his vehicle during the melee, was rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition. Six other people were seriously injured.
Part of the “surreal” scene a witness described included “a car on its roof.” “It looked like one of the cars had become airborne,” another witness added.
Burden of Proof in Civil Claims
Before departing on a journey, or writing a blog about the evidence in a civil case, it’s good to know where you are heading. In this case, our destination is the burden of proof in a civil case. To obtain compensation for their injuries, victim/plaintiffs must prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.
Picture two equally-full glasses of water side by side. If someone adds a single drop of liquid to the glass on the left, it has more liquid than the glass on the right. That’s what a preponderance of the evidence looks like. So, it doesn’t take much proof to establish key facts in court.
However, minimum effort usually means minimum results. In this case, a minimum amount of evidence usually means minimum compensation. To obtain maximum compensation for your serious injuries, a New York personal injury attorney needs to go the extra mile. However, it’s also important not to present too much evidence. Juror fatigue eventually sets in. If jurors tune out victims, they usually award less compensation.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Shoring Up Evidence in Injury Claims
In terms of proof, most car crash claims rely on a combination of medical bills, the police accident report, and witness statements. Frequently, this holy trinity is sufficient. But in other cases, especially if a New York personal injury attorney must start from scratch, additional proof might be necessary.
Sometimes, medical bills are a bit like credit card bills. If a family takes a trip to Italy, their credit card statement probably shows when they went, how much it cost, what they did there, and so on. But a credit card statement doesn’t tell anyone anything about how that trip made the family feel or the memories they made while they were there.
To fill in those blanks about an Italy trip, pictures are probably available on Facebook. But a car wreck is a lot more complex. Social media pictures don’t adequately address the gap. So, a New York personal injury attorney often arranges for an independent medical examination.
This doctor usually also asks questions about the injury and how it made the victim feel. The doctor isn’t being pushy. The doctor is just trying to fill in the blanks. Additionally, an independent medical examination is basically a second opinion. The medical misdiagnosis rate is alarmingly high.
Police accident reports often heavily rely on statements from the drivers involved in the accident. If the victim was killed or catastrophically injured, the victim’s statement is missing from the report. A lack of input might not be the only problem. A lack of skills could be an issue as well. Emergency responders do their best. But these individuals aren’t accident reconstruction professionals.
If the police report shows some inadequacies, a New York personal injury attorney often partners with an accident reconstruction engineer. An engineer often takes bits of evidence, like information from a car’s black box flight data recorder, and uses it to piece together the events leading up to the crash.
When cars go flying around the Brooklyn Bridge, you can bet things happened very quickly. In cases like these, eyewitness evidence, which is normally crucial, is often unreliable. Witnesses must be looking at exactly the right place at exactly the right time. That’s often not the case. Furthermore, our brains aren’t cameras or tape recorders. We remember things selectively.
We mentioned electronic evidence above. Such proof often supplements shaky witness statements as well. Early versions of a vehicle black box appeared in the 1970s. Back then, these gadgets recorded airbag deployment, and that’s about it. Today’s devices are much more sophisticated. A vehicle’s black box measures and records lots of information like steering angle, brake application, and vehicle speed.
Surveillance video footage is often useful as well. As mentioned, human brains aren’t video cameras. But video cameras are, well, video cameras. Lenses see what they see.
Resolving Injury Claims
All this evidence collection is a lot of work which, given the low burden of proof mentioned above, might seem unnecessary. But all this work on the front end usually pays dividends on the back end, in the form of maximum compensation.
Most car crash claims settle out of court. In a handful of cases, if the aforementioned medical bills, witness statements, and police accident report all clearly indicate the other driver is liable, the claim settles almost immediately.
Usually, however, the facts aren’t so clear cut. That’s especially true when insurance company defenses enter the picture.
Comparative fault is a good example. This legal loophole shifts blame from the negligent party to the innocent party. This defense is especially common in multi-vehicle wrecks, like that mess on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Lack of evidence is another reason many injury cases don’t settle immediately. Expert reports and other such items aren’t available until later in the litigation process. So, if a case settles too early, thh victim/plaintiff might be settling for less. The best evidence, and therefore the strongest case, simply isn’t available yet.
Although settlement negotiations usually begin once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, they often don’t heat up until mediation. As outlined above, a New York personal injury attorney often isn’t holding a winning hand at first. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, insurance company lawyers drag things out as long as they can.
Mediation is different. All the cards have been dealt, which means a New York personal injury attorney has a much better hand. Additionally, insurance companies have a duty to negotiate in good faith. They cannot drag their feet for no reason. As a result, mediation is about 90 percent successful.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact the Pianko Law Group, PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.