Accidents happen. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 55 million people—1 in 6 Americans—sought professional medical attention for injuries in 2020 alone. Accidents can happen for a variety of reasons, however, a great majority arise out of careless actions. If your accident was caused by the negligence of another party, you have the right to hold them responsible for your damages through a personal injury claim. To prove fault, you need evidence.
A core challenge is that the defendant may be in control of key evidence. You can take action to protect your right to get evidence from the defendant through a type of legal notice called a letter of spoliation (spoliation letter). In this blog post, our Hillsborough personal injury attorney explains how a letter of spoliation can help preserve relevant evidence in a legal claim in North Carolina.
Spoliation Letters and Personal Injury Claims in North Carolina
Personal injury litigation is complicated. The discovery process is an important part of any legal case, including a personal injury claim. As described by the Cornell Legal Information Institute, discovery is a “pre-trial process” through which parties to ongoing legal matters may be required to exchange relevant evidence and information with each other. Indeed, parties to a legal dispute have a general responsibility to preserve pertinent evidence.
The problem is that defendants in personal injury claims are not exactly eager to save the evidence. A letter or spoliation is an important type of legal notice because it officially demands the preservation of evidence. A spoliation letter may make specific demands for evidence preservation, general demands for preservation of evidence, or, more likely, both. You can use a spoliation letter to tell potential defendants and third parties to save relevant evidence.
Know the Advantages of a Spoliation Letter
A defendant in a personal injury lawsuit (or potential personal injury lawsuit) is not supposed to destroy or “lose” evidence. Federal and state rules of civil procedure are both clear on this matter. Defendants have a general duty to preserve relevant information. Nonetheless, a letter of spoliation is an important step in a personal injury claim for two reasons:
- It increases the odds that the defendant or third party will actually preserve evidence.
- It puts the claimant (victim) in a better position to get a remedy if the evidence is not saved.
What type of remedy is available if a defendant intentionally destroys or negligently fails to preserve evidence? The claimant (injured victim) could be entitled to an adverse inference. With adverse inference, the court will presume that the evidence that should have been preserved would have been favorable to the injured victim. An adverse inference is a powerful legal remedy.
Actionable Tips for Crafting a Professional Letter of Spoliation
Were you hurt in an accident in North Carolina? Are you worried that the defendant or a third party is going to destroy or “lose” key evidence that you need to make your case? Protect your rights with a proactive approach. Send a letter or spoliation. Here are three key things to know about crafting a reliable and effective spoliation letter in a personal injury claim:
- Clearly State Your Intent to Escalate the Legal Claim: There should be no ambiguity. A letter of spoliation should make it very clear that you intend to pursue legal action. As such, relevant evidence must be preserved under the law as it is pertinent to ongoing/future litigation.
- Try to Be Specific—but Also Include General Language: Do you have any knowledge of specific evidence that the defendant or a third party might have? If so, be specific. State that within the letter of spoliation. Beyond that, a spoliation letter should include general language that demands the preservation of all relevant evidence and information.
- Consult With a North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney: As a spoliation letter is an official legal notice, it should be drafted by an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer. An attorney can help you put together a comprehensive, compelling letter.
Contact Our Hillsborough, NC Personal Injury Attorney for a Free Consultation
At Paynter Law, our North Carolina personal injury lawyers have secured in excess of $500 million for victims and families. If you have any questions about the spoliation of evidence, we can help. Give us a phone call now or connect with us online to arrange a no-cost, no-commitment case review. From our Hillsborough office, we represent injured victims throughout the area, including in Durham, Raleigh, Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Mebane, Burlington, and Efland.