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Construction Accidents and the Importance of Expert Testimony: Time Is Of the Essence

If you have been seriously injured in a  construction accident, it is critical that you contact a personal injury lawyer immediately so that your lawyer can hire an accident reconstruction expert.  The reconstruction expert will need to visit the accident scene as quickly as possible to examine the site and take photographs before any changes can occur. The expert will look at the evidence, identify possible witnesses and take statements from those witnesses in order to identify the cause of the accident and the injury. Failure to do this in a timely manner may result in the loss of potential evidence because construction sites change from day to day. You can be sure that the defendant’s insurance company will have an accident reconstructionist on the site immediately after the accident, and you can also be assured that the expert’s factual reconstruction will be favorable to the defendant.  So it is important to get your expert to the jobsite immediately to properly reconstruct the accident scene and preserve any evidence that is favorable for you.

A classic example of the importance of timely accident reconstruction involved a client of mine from New Iberia, Louisiana. The man suffered leg and back injuries when a load of pipes fell from a platform above him. It was unclear what had caused the pipes to fall, so my expert and I quickly inspected the accident scene.  My expert, who was also a mechanical engineer, noted that the pipe platform underwent excessive vibration when the plant was operating. My expert’s opinion was that the vibration caused the pipes to fall from the pipe rack and injure my client. It should be noted that within one year of the accident, the area had been rebuilt — without notification to us — and had we not done accident reconstruction to identify the cause of the accident, we would never have won the claim. As it was, my client received a $900,000 settlement.

It is rare, but there are some instances when a defendant knows that the area is under investigation for possible civil litigation and actively destroys evidence that is favorable for the plaintiff.  When this happens, it is called “spoliation of the evidence.” If it can be proven that the defendant has altered or destroyed evidence, it can be very damaging for the defendant. Generally, defendants will not actively alter an accident scene, but it is up to you to get your expert there as soon after the accident as possible.

Thomas Alonzo

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