Spoliation of evidence is also known as the preservation of evidence. Spoliation letters (also known as preservation letters) are key when the evidence only exists for short periods of time and are only in one party’s possession. The timing of these spoliation letters or preservation letters is critical. If an injured individual does not get this letter out in time very important evidence can and will be destroyed. This key evidence will then be lost in your case.
What is a Spoliation Letter?
It is a letter or notices requesting an adverse party to preserve all relevant evidence. This can include any documents, items, data, videos, vehicles, financials and/or anything relevant to a case. If the letter has not been sent and the evidence is destroyed, there is very little that a Workers’ Compensation attorney can do. This piece of evidence can be destroyed and lost forever. However, if the letter is sent and the evidence is destroyed afterwards then the court can give a jury instruction that allows the jury to infer or presume that the evidence destroyed would hurt or injure the party that destroyed it.
For example, a trucking company involved in a really bad accident could intentionally destroy the black boxes, “electronic control modules” (EMD’s) or “event data records” (EDR’s) following an accident. Alternatively, the trucking company could unintentionally destroy this type of information because of company policies or standards and only preserve the information for a specific period of time. When this piece of evidence is destroyed, it is referred to as spoliation of evidence.
Why is the Spoliation Letter Critical to Case Outcomes?
Two possible reasons are:
1. You obtain all the evidence and can hire experts to review it or even show the jury exactly what occurred if it is a video. To have all the evidence in your case will make the facts harder for the other side to the dispute. Insurance companies want juries to speculate and have doubts. If you have all the evidence and it is indisputable, then the insurance companies have a harder time creating any doubt in what has occurred.
2. In North Carolina, if a party destroys evidence solely in its possession after the spoliation letter is sent, then the Court can give the jury a spoliation charge. This allows the jury to then infer or presume that the evidence destroyed would have hurt or injured the party that destroyed it. This can be a game-changer in your case.
If both parties have equal access to the evidence seeking to be preserved and it is later destroyed, then no spoliation charge will be given to a jury as everyone could have preserved it in a timely manner.
If you or a family member has questions about evidence that needs to be preserved in a case and you are concerned about it being destroyed intentionally or unintentionally, contact Cardinal Law Partners today. Our personal injury, Workers’ Compensation and disability lawyers are experienced in handling all sorts of injury claims and will help you navigate your claim in North Carolina and the surrounding areas. Call 833-444-4257 to contact us today!