How Can I Protect the Evidence in My Personal Injury Claim?
NC Accident Lawyers Discuss Options If the Other Side is Tampering with Evidence
Evidence is the key to any legal case, including personal injury lawsuits and workers compensation claims. The popularity of forensic investigation TV shows like CSI has emphasized how evidence can make or break a criminal case. It is no different in civil matters. The success of a personal injury claim involving a car accident, workplace injury, medical error, defective product or any other circumstance depends on strong evidence. However, sometimes the individuals responsible for an accident or injury may hide, alter or destroy important evidence proving their liability. An attorney can take steps to prevent the loss of evidence from causing an unfavorable result in your legal claim. Additionally, if someone does alter important information, then a lawyer can work to hold the liable party accountable for tampering with evidence.
At Riddle & Brantley, our accident lawyers stand up for the rights of people hurt by someone else’s negligence. If you believe someone is hiding evidence or tampering with evidence in your case, then we may be able to help. Our experienced North Carolina personal injury attorneys can review your situation now for free. Contact us online or call us at one of or four North Carolina offices in Raleigh, Goldsboro, Kinston and Jacksonville. We can assist injured people anywhere in the state.
What Does “Tampering with Evidence” Mean?
In civil cases like personal injury claims, the technical term for tampering with evidence is “spoliation.” The definition of this term is: “intentional, reckless, or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, fabricating, or destroying of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding.”
There are many ways in which someone could hide, alter, destroy or manufacture evidence in a personal injury claim. In some cases, spoliation is intentional and done specifically to obstruct or obscure an investigation. However, simply being careless or reckless with evidence can still amount to spoliation. Just a few simple examples of evidence tampering are:
- After a workplace accident, a company destroys or hides records about maintenance problems with the equipment that injured the worker.
- A customer trips over loose carpeting in a restaurant. The owners immediately remove the carpeting and shred records of other customers complaining about the carpet.
- A surgical error causes harm to a patient at a hospital. So, the surgeon changes the patient’s medical records to hide the mistake.
- An automotive defect causes a serious crash, and the manufacturer hides memos or other documents in which engineers voiced concerns about the design.
- A drunk driver causes a crash, and then the driver asks a friend to get the empty beer cans out of the car. The driver may also leave the scene to avoid a blood alcohol test.
These hypotheticals are very basic. Spoliation of evidence is usually much more complex and more difficult to detect. However, whenever someone tries to change or hide proof of his or her wrongdoing, that is evidence spoliation.
What Happens to My Claim If Evidence is Lost or Destroyed?
Each state has its own laws concerning the consequences of tampering with evidence. In North Carolina, if the court finds that someone in a lawsuit has hidden or tampered with evidence, then the court can allow the jury to draw a negative inference from that fact. In other words, if the defendant hid or destroyed evidence in your case, the judge may tell the jury that they can hold it against the defendant. Thus, the jury may conclude that the lost evidence would have demonstrated the defendant’s liability for your injuries.
To request a negative inference for hiding, tampering with or destroying evidence, the party who did something to the evidence generally must have known that a claim had been filed or could be filed. Usually, your attorney will send a spoliation letter to the liable parties at the outset of your claim. In truck accident cases and premises liability cases, we usually send a letter to all defendants requesting that evidence be preserved. Our letter is more than one page in slip fall cases and about three pages for truck accident cases. This letter notifies the defendants that you may file a claim and imposes a duty to preserve all relevant evidence.
If the defendant loses, destroys or otherwise alters evidence after the receipt of such a letter, then your lawyer may have grounds to request a negative inference instruction from the judge when the case is tried. This sounds technical, but the experienced accident lawyers at Riddle & Brantley fully understand the rules regarding tampering with evidence. We are ready to review your situation to determine whether spoliation issues may play a role in your case.
Need a Lawyer to Secure Evidence for Your Personal Injury Claim? Call Us Today
At Riddle & Brantley, our personal injury lawyers have more than 160 years of combined experience handling some of the most complex personal injury cases in North Carolina. We are ready to discuss your concerns about someone tampering with evidence in your case. We can also provide you with free legal advice about your options for pursuing maximum compensation for your losses.
Even if someone already tampered with evidence in your case, you may still be able to recover compensation. Working with experienced attorneys who understands how to handle spoliation of evidence can make all the difference to your case. We are here for you. Simply call (800) 525-7111 or fill out an online case review form. There is no charge for a consultation or claim review. We charge nothing for our legal services unless and until we recover compensation on your behalf.