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Tips For Clients Conducting Accident Investigations

By Adam Landon

September 10, 2018

Unfortunately, accidents and resulting injuries are a part of life.  While businesses and individuals can take steps to limit the likelihood of such events, should one occur, there are steps to be taken to properly investigate in hopes of determining the cause and preventing future incidents.  Properly investigating accidents may also have the impact of reducing potential legal liability as lawsuits can be won with one good picture, one measurement or one witness statement; therefore, it is important to document and preserve evidence.

INVESTIGATIVE PROTOCOL

  1. Pre-plan incident response 
    1.    Within your organization determine who will perform the following functions:
      1. Respond to notification of an incident
      2. Take measurements
      3. Take photographs
      4. Take statements
      5. Speak with law enforcement, administrative bodies and the press
    2.       It is also important to consider what employees will be allowed to say or do in relation to inquiries.

2. Attorney Interaction
While you do not need to wait for a lawyer to get to the scene, you should contact your attorney and note in the file that the investigation is being performed under the direction of the attorney.  This process will assist in preserving work product and attorney-client privilege and will also aid your attorney in preparing a defense to any potential lawsuit. 

3. Incident Scene Investigation and Documentation  
         a.     Understand that an accident scene will normally change quickly; therefore, document the  scene upon arrival.
         b.      Secure the scene
                     1.      Assist first responders as appropriate under the circumstances
                     2.      Keep unauthorized people away from the scene
         c.      
Documentation of Incident
                     1.   
Generally, photographs and measurements should be taken, including location of all equipment, tools or other instrumentalities involved in the incident
                                 i.    
Document photographs as you proceed by identifying each photograph, which can be performed by making a written list or dictating with a tape recorder
                                 ii.   
Take photographs of your measurements both overview and close-up
                                 iii.   
Look for and photograph safety signs and traffic devices
                     2.   
Identify all injured parties
                     3.   Identify all witnesses
                     4.   Identify law enforcement and EMT personnel
                     5.   Note the time of first responders’ arrival and departure
                     6.   Note weather conditions if applicable
         d.   Witness Statements
                     1.   Obtain name, address, phone numbers, age, occupation and employer
                     2.   Ask the Who, What, When, Where questions?
                     3.   Interview promptly
                     4.   Tape record, video or take notes
                     5.   Obtain written statements if possible

 4.   Preservation of Evidence
        a.      Identify and label location, date and time and custodian
        b.      Keep chain of custody by noting any transfer of evidence
        c.       Protect evidence from environmental influences which may deteriorate
        d.       Do not discard, destroy or alter evidence without attorney approval

 5.   Offer an opinion only if it is within company protocol and within your job scope

  1.    Avoid making statements through text messaging or posting upon social media
    While each incident will have its own dynamics and thus the above is certainly not an exhaustive list of steps, it will hopefully provide a framework for parties to appropriately respond to and document accidents resulting in injuries.
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This blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice, and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Further, your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship. Online readers should not act upon any information presented on this blog without seeking professional legal counsel. The legal information provided in this blog is general and should not be relied on as legal advice, which CCJ attorneys cannot provide without full consideration of all relevant information relating to one’s individual situation.