With that said, personal injury/insurance claims often live and die by the crash report because its presumably the most neutral investigation of the crash out there.
What follows are quick explanations of three times the crash report was objectively wrong and what we did to be able to turn it around so our clients were able to make a recovery instead of having their claim denied.
Our first client was the front seat passenger in his dad’s car. They were preparing to turn left from a turn lane on a major road on the southside of Indianapolis. They were the second or third car in line when the turn arrow turned green. The car in front of them made it through the turn, but they were t-boned by a truck that ran the red light for through traffic. The crash caused the glass to shatter, which severely cut our client’s eyeball. He lost the eye.
Unfortunately, for some reason the crash report listed our client’s dad as being at fault for HIM disregarding a red light. There were no witnesses listed, apparently the officer just found the other driver more credible. SIDE NOTE: it happens to be the case that our client is Burmese and does not speak English very well. Before coming to us, our client had his claim denied by the insurance company and was also turned down by multiple attorneys when looking for representation.
We flipped this case by the simplest tactic that apparently no one else took the time to try. We requested 911 call audio from the crash to see if there were any eyewitnesses and the officer just failed to list them. Wouldn’t you know, there WAS an eyewitness who made a 911 call. She was the driver of the car in the turn lane in front of ours. We were able to call her to obtain a statement where she was able to recount very clearly that the turn light turned green, she was able to get through the intersection easily, and the car behind her got absolutely crushed by a truck running his red light. That was enough to turn a case of denied liability into a policy limits offer.
As my old boss used to say, “A little want to goes a long way.” I can’t for the life of me understand why in almost 18 months no one had done even the smallest thing to make sure this young man received justice, but I’m glad we could help.
Our second client came to us after a pretty serious foot injury. He was riding his moped past a nightclub in Indianapolis when a car pulled out of an alley and struck him. Believe it or not, the crash report had it as being our client’s fault. See, it was nighttime and there was a witness present who stated that the moped did not have its headlight on. Our client was adamant that this was not the case, if for no other reason than that mopeds are like motorcycles in that they have no “off” switch for headlights. So, we dug deeper.
First we went to Facebook and did some good ol’ fashioned stalking of the other driver and the witness. In an AMAZING coincidence, it turns out the two were Facebook friends. In another amazing coincidence, they actually worked together at the nightclub that night (one a DJ, the other a rapper if I recall). Call me skeptical, but I was starting to think that our “witness” may have been covering for his buddy. Now, being a witness to the crash of someone you know is probably not enough to flip a crash report, so we kept digging.
Our client remembered he had been to the video store to rent a movie just before the crash. I asked which one and then contacted the store manager about looking at the surveillance footage, and he was happy to oblige. SIDE NOTE: In case you haven’t been inside a video store in a few years, they still smell exactly the same.
As it turns out, there was crystal clear video footage of our client riding in/out of the video store parking lot with operational lights on his moped just minutes before the crash. We were able to share the results of our investigation with the insurance adjuster, and were able to flip another crash from “denied” to the “policy limits” column.
This is the saddest of the three cases I wanted to share because it involves the death of a man with two small children left behind. It’s also one of those I’m very proud to have worked on because it was an uphill fight in all respects with the State of Indiana as our defendant.
Our client was driving home from his 3rd shift job one morning around dawn when a State dump truck tried to cross the highway he was driving on, pulled directly into his path, and caused a collision that killed our client instantly. The Indiana State Police “investigated” the crash and came to the conclusion that our client was driving his car without headlights on.
They came to this conclusion because the State driver said she did not see our client’s car at any time prior to the collision and because the State Police collected and inspected the side marker lights on our client’s car and failed to see any signs of “hot shock.” SIDE NOTE: Get more information about hot shock.
The State Police determination was devastating to our case because under the Indiana Tort Claims Act, contributory negligence acts as a complete bar to recovery. Suffice to say, driving without headlights on before sunrise would fall within the realm of contributory negligence.
But it all didn’t make sense. How could a guy drive for 20 minutes pre-crash on a rural highway, starting when it was pitch dark out? Why would a guy turn his headlights off mid-trip, even if it got light enough out to see? It just didn’t compute.
After numerous depositions and document review, we were stuck at the same place we had started. We know he didn’t have his lights off, but we couldn’t think of a way to prove it. Then we went back to the basics and tried to give it a fresh look. In what was either one of the biggest errors I’ve ever seen, or the biggest shenanigans, it turns out the State Police did NOT collect and inspect the side marker light, as they had stated. They had collected and inspected a turn signal bulb. You’ll have to read our Hot Shock blog post to fully understand why that’s important, but suffice it to say that a turn signal bulb is completely useless for the test they were using. How the Indiana State Police failed to identify and collect the correct bulb is beyond me and a topic for a different day.
As luck would have it, however, we still had the headlight assembly preserved, which still had the side marker light inside. The bulb was pulled and examined, and it was confirmed conclusively that our client’s headlights were on when he was killed. I have a special hatred for the Indiana Tort Claims Act because of the hurdles and disadvantages plaintiffs have when dealing with it. And I’m very proud that in spite of all of the challenges built into this case, we were able to flip the liability in a tragic case and get the family compensation for the senseless death of their loved one.
That’s all for now. We honestly have cases fairly regularly where we have to do the extra digging to flip around a liability determination. If you’ve been in a crash where you’re certain that you’re not at fault, even if the crash report says otherwise, contact us and we’ll see if there’s something we think we can do with it to make sure your compensation isn’t diminished because of a crash report.