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Preservation of evidence in liability claims

Molly Mack

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When an organization or business owner is made aware of an injury or incident on their premises, the preservation of evidence is an important step in the claims process. In the immediate aftermath of an incident, organizations may overlook the importance of preserving evidence while trying to provide aid to the injured party. However, preserving evidence helps to ensure the best possible outcome for the claim.

Preservation of evidence steps

The first step in preservation of evidence is to determine what evidence is available. Valuable forms of evidence include photographs, surveillance, statements, incident reports, maintenance or repair logs, and physical objects involved in, or contributing to, the incident.

The next step is to secure the evidence. Obtain photos of the premises as soon as possible after notice of the loss is received. Photographic evidence should reflect the conditions of the premises at the time of loss. Be sure to capture the specific area of loss, all surrounding areas, any object which caused or contributed to the loss, and any mitigating factors, such as the lighting at the time of loss, any signage posted, and any supportive devices, such as handrails and handicap ramps.

Secure any available surveillance footage immediately. Surveillance footage is often recorded over within days. It’s important to retain surveillance that supports the facts of loss before it’s destroyed. Surveillance can be one of the most useful types of evidence, as it can be used to support or refute obtained statements.

Obtain written statements from staff and witnesses present at the time of the incident. Details of the facts of the loss can be forgotten or confused between the time of the incident and the time the claim is reported. Request that the staff present at the time of loss prepare an incident report as soon as possible, while the facts of loss are fresh in their minds. Reports should include who was present at the time of loss and contact information for the claimant and witnesses, so that statements may be readily obtained in the future if necessary.

It’s important to collect and retain maintenance or repair logs as they may help show the condition of the area and/or equipment before the loss. If you contract for repairs or maintenance of the property, gather any contracts and invoices for these services on the date of loss.

Finally, retain any pertinent object(s) involved in the loss that caused or contributed to an injury. Don’t destroy or dispose of any object(s) involved in the loss. If there’s a defect with the object involved in the loss that caused or contributed to an injury, a claim may be pursued with the manufacturer.

After a loss occurs, be sure to preserve all evidence related to the loss. Once all evidence is located, retain the evidence until the claim has been resolved or the statute of limitations has expired. Doing so will help to ensure the insurer has the necessary information needed to properly evaluate the claim. 

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