Losing or Destroying Evidence Can Have Serious Consequences
There is an inherent difference between those who are injured, and those who cause injuries, especially in slip in falls or defective products or any non-car accident case: The defendant—usually a company or business—has most of the evidence needed to prove the case, and the victim usually has little or none when the case begins.
Thankfully there is a process by which an injured victim can get information from the other side. This process, called discovery, compels the other side to hand over certain documents, pictures, videos, emails, studies, or other business records to the victim.
But what happens when or if a defendant, seeing that a lawsuit is coming, opts to simply destroy evidence? Emails can be deleted with the click of a button. Videos can be recorded over, or trashed if they are digital. Wouldn’t it be easy for a defendant to prevent a victim from recovery simply by destroying the evidence the victim needs to prove their case?
There are laws that prevent this kind of thing from happening, called spoliation laws. Spoliation laws apply both to the party being sued, and any third parties that may have evidence that is relevant to the case. In both situations, whoever has information that will be used or that can reasonably be foreseen as being used or needed must take steps to preserve the evidence or information.
For example, imagine that someone crashes into you, and says that the accident was caused because their brakes were just repaired, but the repair shop did a poor job. You (through your injury attorney) contact the repair shop and tell them to preserve all evidence of having done repair work on the defendant’s vehicle. The repair shop must honor that request.
As you can see, in a lot of cases, a business doesn’t know that something may be evidence before and unless you tell them. That’s why it’s important to have an injury attorney that can act quickly in notifying anybody and everybody who may have relevant evidence that will help your case to preserve that evidence.
Penalties for Spoliation
If a party destroys evidence that it knows or should know will be needed in a lawsuit, even if the destruction is innocent, the court can instruct the jury to assume that the evidence would have been adverse or against the party that destroyed or lost the evidence.
In other words, in the example above, if the repair shop “lost” the repair records, the jury could be instructed to assume that the records would have said that the repairs were done carelessly, had the records existed. This negative presumption can harm any party in court who fails to preserve and protect evidence.
Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Willis Burnette, PLLC, today. We can help gather the evidence that you may need if you need to file a lawsuit in your injury case.