Cooper Hurley Attorneys Stress the Importance of Thoroughness in Virginia Personal Injury Investigations
Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers attorneys John Cooper and John Baker recently gave presentations to the Virginia Beach Bar Association relating to Virginia personal injury investigations.
Their CLE (Continuing Legal Education) presentations covered a range of topics including the importance of thoroughness in Virginia personal injury investigations.
John Cooper, a founding partner of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, spoke about Personal Injury Practice from the Plaintiff’s and Defense Perspective.
John Baker spoke about common ethical issues in personal injury cases at the Virginia Beach Bar Association event on Sept. 26 at the Museum of Contemporary Arts.
Mr. Cooper spoke about the importance of gathering thorough evidence from the outset of a case when a client is signed up.
“During every sign-up, the new client is asked to immediately provide all videos and photographs. If the new client is unable to provide the information at that moment, you or your staff must follow-up with the client to secure this important information. Your new client has just been through a terrible accident and can misplace this critical evidence. Cell phones with important videos or photographs can be lost along with your evidence,” he said.
Starting an Investigation in Virginia Beach Early
He spoke about the “critical” importance of getting witness interviews early during Virginia Personal Injury Investigations. “It is important to reach these witnesses while their memory is fresh and to get current contact information. Even if the witness is a co-worker or close friend, these early interviews are critical.”
Memories fade fast after a car accident or another incident. People change jobs and become difficult to track down. “Securing this information early improves your chances of locating witnesses months later when it is time to present a demand or move forward into suit. It is also important to interview the investigating officer early in the process. Officers work hundreds of accidents and will quickly forget your particular case. Police pictures, videos, and notes will be discarded after a period of time, so get these files before they are unavailable,” Cooper told the audience of legal professionals.
Physical evidence relating to a case should be kept in storage or an evidence locker. Destructive testing should not be performed before all interested parties are put on notice and an agreement is reached, he said.
Mr. Cooper also stressed the importance of making Freedom of Information requests early.
“The most common reason that information is withheld is that the requested information is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation. You cannot assume that the FOIA office and prosecutors are on the same page, so your FOIA request must also contain language demanding that all withheld items be preserved,” he said. Additional preservation request will prevent the pertinent items from being destroyed through periodic purges, making the items available via a follow-up FOIA request.”
Gather Evidence from Car Accident Scenes
New technology allows more information to be gathered from car accident scenes but presents its own challenges.
“For motor vehicle accident cases, your FOIA/preservation request to law enforcement should include a request for all dash-cam and lapel camera footage. This can be especially valuable evidence in punitive damages cases. Again, your request must be made promptly because police departments do not keep the footage very long,” Mr. Cooper said.
The need to act fast extends to photographs. Mr. Cooper advised lawyers to take photographs immediately and maintain a “catalog of photographs” documenting the healing process. “A series of photographs is much more impactful than a single picture of the healed wound/scar,” he said.
In serious cases such as amputation, consider hiring a professional photographer.
Advising the Client
Mr. Cooper also advised lawyers to tell their clients to be careful about what they post on social media.
“The client should be encouraged to use the highest privacy settings possible if they do not discontinue social media during the case,” he said.
He also spoke about the need to provide copious details to the insurance company during a personal injury claim.
“In general, insurance companies will not take your word for anything and they only believe what is proved in black and white through the medical records or otherwise,” Mr. Cooper told the audience. “I believe that the detailed approach is better, namely, to give the adjuster everything served up in a clear way so that they can plug it into their system and come back with the highest possible value.”
Ethics in Virginia Personal Injury Investigations
John Baker spoke about personal injury ethics in Virginia Personal Injury Investigations. He posed questions such as whether an attorney could represent both a driver and a passenger hit by another driver.
“The attorney may continue to represent the passenger, assuming the passenger maintains the position that the driver was not negligent in any way,” he said.
He also spoke about the American Bar Association’s ethics rules relating to keeping clients informed about the status of their cases. They include the following:
- A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
- A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
- A lawyer shall inform the client of facts pertinent to the matter and of communications from another party that may significantly affect settlement or resolution of the matter.
Learn More About Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers’ Approach
Ethics, thoroughness, and the speedy gathering of evidence is vital in Virginia Personal Injury Investigations. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, our attorneys are well aware of the importance of these three factors when we are representing clients.
When we take on a new case, we treat it with the urgency it deserves. Please contact our personal injury team for a free and confidential consultation if you were hurt by another person.