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Spoliation of Evidence in a Personal Injury Case

If our client’s claim is unable to settle, we will zealously represent their interests at trial. We will gather and analyze all applicable evidence to best present our client’s case throughout the course of litigation. But an unfortunate reality of personal injury litigation is having to deal with a defendant who intentionally or negligently causes key evidence beneficial to the plaintiff to become lost or destroyed. A result of this reality is that evidence which would be helpful to the personal injury victim’s claim is not available to the victim, and as such, this jeopardizes the value or likelihood of success in the underlying claim. A common example of where the defendant or at-fault party destroys or “loses” important evidence is when someone is injured at a commercial or business location. It is more likely than not that a business has at least one, if not several, video cameras which captured the personal injury victim’s accident. If these cameras did not capture the actual accident itself, they may have captured the areas surrounding the accident, which would be beneficial to show who may have been present, what sounds may have been made out of view, etc. As soon as we are contacted by such a victim, we send a “spoliation of evidence” letter to the owner, manager, or custodian of records at the business and request that they preserve any such evidence for purposes of future discovery. In this letter we instruct the recipient that under the California Civil Jury Instructions 204 “Willful Suppression of Evidence,” (see CACI 204) the jury in any subsequent trial will be able to infer that whatever evidence was destroyed or lost was detrimental to the defendant and can use that inference to the benefit of the victim. Indeed, this allowance is provided for in Evidence Code 413 which provides that the juror can draw whatever inferences it wants regarding why certain evidence was not provided for by the defendant or why the defendant is unable to explain what happened to certain evidence (see Evidence Code 413). While these rules are no guarantee that the defendant or at-fault party will protect evidence which is harmful to his side, they certainly cause the custodian of such evidence to think twice before they destroy or “lose” it. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence and believe the at-fault party has or will destroy important evidence in your claim against them, contact our accident lawyer immediately to schedule a consultation.

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