The dictionary defines forensic as “the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems.” In the courtroom, forensic evidence is powerful. Forensic evidence includes pictures, videos, and careful measurements of time and space. Forensic evidence corroborates testimony. It is vitally important because it establishes a factual record that is not easily attacked by insurance defense lawyers.
What kind of forensic evidence do you need to prove her wreck case? Obviously, proof of the other driver’s carelessness. Less obviously, proof of the harms and losses caused by the negligence.
Gathering forensic evidence for harms and losses is sometimes overlooked by lay people and many practicing lawyers. However, the damages element is the most important part of a claim. Forensic evidence of harms and losses documented with a smart phone enhance the probability you will make a full monetary recovery.
The ubiquitous smart phone is your best tool for making a good forensic record. Send the image, audio and video files you make with it to yourself (or your attorney) by email, save them to your computer’s hard drive, and upload them to an Internet file storage service (e.g., Dropbox) as backup.
Here are some examples of how to use a smart phone to create forensic proof.
Take pictures of the vehicle damage.
When you’re on the scene, think like a CSI. If a paint smudge on your car helps proves someone hit you, take the picture of the smudge. If the dent location supports your description of the collision, take a picture. Take pictures of the interior. Look for bent steering wheels and star patterns on the glass. Photograph the speedometer and odometer.
If you cannot take pictures at the scene, it is worth a trip to the car storage facility to gather the evidence.
Make a Video and Pictures of the Routes of Travel by Both Drivers
Recreate the trip. This will help explain how dangerous the other driver is to other people on the roadway. As they watch, the jurors will imagine that they are sitting in your car which is about to be in a bad collision. The feeling is literally like watching a train wreck unfold.
Plus, a recreation video helps illustrate excuses and misrepresentations frequently used by careless drivers. For example, one might claim that you were at fault for speeding, or that the sun was in his eyes, or that he didn’t have time to see you because of a curve or hill. Use your smart phone and take pictures from his perspective. Take pictures of all relevant traffic control devices from the other driver’s view (speed limit signs, warning signs, yield signs, stop signs, stop lights). The pictures will show how easily a reasonably careful driver would have avoided the collision.
Use the Stop Watch.
The stop watch on your smart phone can help recreate the timing of events leading up to the collision. For example, how many seconds elapsed between the time you first saw the other car, and when it pulled out in front of your path of travel. Very accurate information about timing is often an essential forensic bit used to figure out speed and undermine defenses (excuses).
Take pictures of your injuries as soon as possible
Photographs document evidence of your injuries. It is true that EMS and hospital triage records include medical examination notes that record the doctor’s observations of what he saw that day. But you should not rely on the hospital records or the examination notes to accurately record injury data. Hospital records often have conflicting information, omit important facts, or have errors. Take pictures of your bruises and lacerations. These pictures constitute proof of traumatic injury and help to explain the mechanism of your injury.
Keep taking pictures as you heal
You can use a series of photographs to demonstrate how long it took to overcome the injuries. This is particularly true with a very severe injury which may take months and even years to fully heal. If there is a residual injury, like a scar, photographs help to prove a permanent injury.
Take pictures and make movies of your rehabilitation and therapy
If you are stuck in a hospital bed, wheelchair, or use prosthetic devices to get around, use your smart phone to make short movies of what you are going through. Take pictures of the crutches or wheelchair so you can use the picture to tell the story. Like Rod Stewart sings, “Every Picture Tells a Story.” Make a clip of the daily physical therapy exercises. Think of it as making a documentary about your healing process. Use the videos and images to tell a story about what people must go through to overcome injuries. This is the American over-comer story that everyone likes to hear.
Consider an Audio or Video Logbook of the Recovery Process
Think about an audio or video logbook to contemporaneously record your feelings during recovery. Make it part of the story about how you overcame the injury. Address the frustration and setbacks along the road and explain how she was able to cope. Make it positive. Be accurate in your log. If the contemporaneous recordings about feelings are authentic, they will dramatically help prove your harm at trial.
You can use the smart phone to capture images of documents. No need for a document scanner. Applications like CamScanner are great for facilitating images of documents. But you don’t need a special application. You can take pictures of the police incident report with just a smart phone camera. Take pictures of the business cards of witnesses. Take pictures of driver’s licenses and insurance documents. Take pictures of hospital contracts. Take pictures of license plates.