The disappearance or destruction of crucial evidence is one of the most frustrating and challenging things that can happen in a personal injury case. This can be a problem in a wide variety of cases including automobile accidents, trip and fall accidents and sometimes even in dog bite claims. For example, in trip and fall accidents in order for the plaintiff to meet his or her legal burden of establishing that their injuries were caused by someone else’s fault or negligence it is critically important to be able to prove that there was some dangerous feature present at the scene of the accident which caused him or her to trip and fall. But unfortunately what too often happens is that as soon as the property owner is informed of the accident they alter the accident scene to eliminate or correct the dangerous condition. Once the alterations have been made any photographs that are taken can’t demonstrate the nature or magnitude of the defect that existed at the time of the accident.
In trip and fall cases it is extremely important to have good quality photographs taken as soon as possible after an accident has occurred. In order for the photographs to be of good enough quality to satisfy the legal requirements they must be taken at ground level with a good camera, be taken in good light and at a very close distance. All too often the injured person will not be aware of these requirements and will take photos at head height. Often too, they will take the photos while standing up in dark or shadowy conditions and use a disposable camera held thirty or more feet away from the defect that caused their accident.
Not only should the photos be taken with the camera at ground level (or close to ground level) they should include a ruler or yardstick in the scene being depicted. This is important because under California law a trivial or minimal defect is not deemed to be legally actionable. For example if an upraised section of a concrete sidewalk caused the person to trip, a ruler standing next to the defect can be crucially important to establishing that the magnitude of the defect meets or exceeds the legal standard.