Evidence is paramount in personal injury cases because it can prove that the other party acted negligently and caused you to suffer an injury. If evidence is unintentionally or intentionally tampered with, it could ruin a case. Below, we discuss the spoliation of evidence, consequences, and ways to protect evidence.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by negligence, reach out to a Cincinnati personal injury attorney from O’Connor, Acciani & Levy today for a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your claim.
Spoliation Of Evidence
In the simplest terms, spoliation of evidence occurs when a party fails to preserve evidence in a case or willingly destroys evidence whether litigation has been contemplated or is already pending. Once litigation is contemplated or pending, all parties involved must preserve evidence in the case.
When one side of a lawsuit fails to preserve evidence, the judge presiding over the case can impose sanctions, some of which include the following:
- Providing the jury information on the principles of spoliation
- Striking the answer from the defendant from the record
- Not allowing testimony about the evidence
There are different consequences for the destruction of evidence in personal injury cases and it all depends on the jurisdiction of where the case is being heard. For the most part there are three forms of consequences the at-fault party can face for destroying evidence in a case, which includes:
- Criminal judgment
- Tort proceedings
- Spoliation inference
A criminal judgment would be issued in a jurisdiction where the destruction of evidence is treated as a crime. Punishment may include fines or jail time. Tort proceedings would allow the victim to file additional lawsuits against the at-fault party for the destruction of evidence from the original case.
When it comes to the spoliation of evidence, the judge might allow information that can be inferred from the destruction of evidence in the case. For example, the jury might conclude that the evidence was destroyed because the at-fault party felt guilty. This would also allow the victim’s lawyer to interpret the evidence with as much prejudice against the at-fault party as they would like.
What Is A Spoliation Letter?
A spoliation letter is a legal document sent to the at-fault party in a case that will involve litigation. The letter is sent to advise the opposition to preserve all evidence pertinent to the case. The letter often goes as far as explaining to the at-fault party which items of evidence should be preserved and warns what might happen if any evidence is destroyed. The majority of spoliation letters warn against hiding, destroying, or tampering with any evidence.
The types of evidence that you can specifically request not be destroyed when you send a spoliation letter includes the following:
- Personnel records
- Text messages
- Backup discs
- External hard drives
- Zip files
- Maintenance reports
- Inspection records
- Repair records
- Results of alcohol or drug testing
- The qualifications of the driver
- Photos of damage to the victim’s vehicle
- Permit or license information
- Driving logs, such as a truck driver’s service hours log
A spoliation letter should be sent as soon as possible after being injured in any type of accident. Evidence might be destroyed by the at-fault party, or their employer, after a certain amount of time has passed. For example, a truck driver’s employer might destroy the driver’s service hours log six months after the crash.
Injured In An Accident? Call An Attorney Today
If you have suffered an injury in any type of accident, it is in your best interest to speak with a lawyer about preserving evidence.
Contact the office of O’Connor Acciani & Levy for a 100 percent free consultation. We only get paid for our services if we obtain compensation for your case.