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How Attorneys Investigate Car Accidents in Salt Lake City

A car crash can be over in an instant. One moment, you were going to work, school, or home on a major freeway like I-15 or a side street in Salt Lake City. The next, you were hit by an inattentive or impaired driver, and now you’re looking at mounting medical bills, lost income, and an uncertain future.

It’s normal for a victim in this situation not to know why the accident happened; all you know at this stage is what happened. However, to pursue your rights under Utah law, you need to get to the bottom of why and how the crash occurred. Even though Utah is a “no-fault” state for car accidents, if you have a serious injury, fault matters – and the only way to prove fault is to conduct an investigation.

That’s why you need to hire an experienced car accident attorney who can investigate car accidents and hold the responsible party accountable.

Types of evidence that apply to car accident claims in Utah

Your attorney will obtain and review numerous types of evidence, including but not limited to:

Physical evidence from the scene of the crash

Physical evidence is critical for several reasons. First, it helps your attorney reconstruct what happened in the accident – which vehicles collided from which direction, how the vehicles moved before and after impact, and so on. Second, physical evidence doesn’t lie, so it can help to either clarify or contradict the accounts of witnesses whose memories may be faulty. Physical evidence can also help determine the force of impact, which in turn can shed more light on your injuries.

Some important types of physical evidence include:

  • Vehicle damage
  • Damaged property
  • Paint or other distinguishing marks on vehicles
  • Glass from headlights or windshields
  • Skid marks (or lack of skid marks)
  • Visible injuries

Of course, physical evidence can be quickly washed away by weather or removed from the scene. That’s one reason you need to call an attorney right away to preserve that evidence before it is gone.

Witness testimony

Witnesses can play a crucial role in any sort of litigation, particularly in car crashes where what happened is often disputed. There are two categories of witnesses who can play a role in car accident lawsuits:

Lay witnesses are regular people who saw some aspect of the accident and can testify regarding what they saw and heard. There are two types of lay witnesses:

  • First-party witnesses are people who were directly involved in the accident, such as drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and other road users. If you’re filing a car accident lawsuit, then you are a first-party witness, and so is the other driver. First-party witnesses can have valuable information, but because they also have a stake in the outcome of the case, a jury may view their testimony as biased.
  • Third-party witnesses are other people who saw what happened but weren’t directly involved. A third-party witness could also be someone who didn’t see the crash itself but has other relevant information, such as a bartender or bar patron who watched a drunk driver consume alcohol before the crash. Third-party witnesses might be seen as more objective because they are not personally involved in litigation resulting from the crash.

It's important for an attorney to talk to lay witnesses as soon as is reasonably practical after a crash—before they forget what they saw. It’s also important to cross-reference their testimony to try to get to the bottom of what really happened.

Expert witnesses are individuals hired by an attorney to lend their training and expertise to a car accident lawsuit. Some expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists and road safety experts, can help an attorney understand what happened in the crash itself. Others are medical professionals who can explain the nature and extent of the injuries. In high-stakes cases, both sides may hire experts, so having an attorney who knows how to find credible and experienced experts is especially important.

Video footage

In the 21st century, cameras are everywhere, so many car accidents are caught on video. Video footage may be obtained from traffic cameras, security cameras at nearby businesses, dashcams, or even private individuals’ cell phones, depending on the circumstances of the crash. If a crash occurs in a major city like Salt Lake, there is a good chance a camera recorded something.

However, camera footage is often deleted or overwritten within days after the crash. Again, it’s critical that you get an attorney on your side as soon as possible to preserve that footage before it is lost. Don’t let some of the most compelling evidence for your claim be deleted.

Police accident reports

When officers from the Salt Lake City Police Department or the Utah Highway Patrol investigate car accidents, they complete an official crash report. Although the crash report itself is usually not admissible in court, it is still a critical piece of evidence in your claim. Insurance companies use the police report when determining liability for the accident. Moreover, if the investigating officer is later called upon to testify in a deposition or at trial, he or she will likely use the report as a basis for that testimony.

In Utah, you can obtain a copy of the crash report from the Highway Patrol. Your attorney can also obtain a copy on your behalf, saving the hassle. Either way, it’s important to review the accident report as soon as possible after it becomes available – and set the record straight if you notice any errors.

Medical records

In any injury case, documenting the injuries themselves is just as important as documenting the cause of the injuries. After being involved in a car accident, you need to get checked out by a doctor right away. You can go to the emergency room, urgent care, or walk-in hours at your primary care provider; the important thing is that you see a doctor as soon as possible. First and foremost, this will protect your health. It also creates an immediate record of your injuries to help support your future claim.

Throughout your treatment for your injuries, save copies of all medical records, including:

  • Doctor’s orders
  • Visit summaries
  • Prescriptions
  • Discharge instructions
  • Medical bills and invoices

These documents will help to support your claim for compensation, not only for your medical bills but also for other costs related to your injuries, such as pain and suffering.

Your own recollections

Ultimately, the most important person in your car accident claim is you. You were there, you know what happened, and you know how your injuries have affected your life. It’s a good idea to keep a journal documenting the ways your life has changed since the accident, including its effects on daily activities, work, and so on. Keeping track of your pain is also important to support claims for pain and suffering or lost quality and enjoyment of life.

Of course, anything you say can be disputed by the insurance company, who may argue you’re exaggerating or even faking your injuries in order to get more compensation. That’s why you need an experienced attorney to help you tell your story in a credible and compelling manner to support your claim.

The right car accident attorney can build a winning case

Gathering evidence is an important part of a car accident attorney’s job, but it’s only one part. Just having a pile of evidence is not sufficient to win your case; your attorney needs to analyze and interpret that evidence to build a compelling story. That may include cross-referencing seemingly contradictory witness accounts, hiring the right experts to interpret physical evidence properly, and applying Utah law and precedent to the facts of your case.

The best car accident attorneys not only conduct exhaustive investigations but also understand the law, the courts, and the jury pool in Salt Lake City. An effective car accident attorney conducts an investigation with the end of your case in mind and knows how to find the right evidence to build a compelling case that protects your legal rights.

Throughout your claim, your attorney will deal with the insurance company on your behalf, keeping you informed while letting you focus on healing and rebuilding your life. Usually, attorneys are able to negotiate a favorable settlement, but your lawyer should also be prepared to litigate on your behalf if necessary. Remember, car accident lawyers work on contingency, which means you don’t pay out of pocket; your attorney’s fee is a percentage of your recovery, and if you don’t win, you don’t pay a cent.

If you’ve been injured in a car crash in or near Salt Lake City, don’t delay. Have an experienced attorney start investigating on your behalf right away. Contact a Premier Attorney in your area today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

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