Home » Knowledge Base » Personal Injury Law » The importance of liability evidence in personal injury cases

The importance of liability evidence in personal injury cases

The importance of obtaining and preserving evidence in personal injury cases cannot be overstated. In personal injury claims, evidence plays a crucial role in determining who is at fault and how much compensation the injured party is entitled to. Without proper evidence, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to prove liability and secure fair compensation.

When a personal injury occurs, it is important to collect and preserve any and all evidence related to the incident. This can include photos of the accident scene, witness statements, medical records, and any other relevant information. This evidence can help to establish the facts of the case and provide a clear picture of what happened.

One of the key pieces of evidence in personal injury cases is the accident or incident report. This document (which is typically prepared by the police following a motor vehicle accident, or your employer following a work accident) provides detailed information about the circumstances of the accident. It can include information about the time and place of the accident, the parties involved, and any contributing factors. The incident report can be used to confirm the event actually occurred, establish liability and help determine fault. For this reason, it is important to report the incident and injury as soon as reasonably possible.

Moreover, an expert liability report is frequently commissioned to ascertain pertinent facts related to the circumstances of an injury. Typically, these reports require an investigator to visit the accident site, taking measurements and conducting tests to evaluate whether any defects contributed to the claimed injury. For instance, conducting a slip test on tiles can reveal their slipperiness when wet, helping to determine if precautionary measures like warning signs or rubber matting could have mitigated the hazard. Without such a report, a claim for personal injuries could easily be lost in a trial scenario (read on for a real life case example).

Another important piece of evidence in personal injury cases is eye witness testimony. Eyewitness accounts can provide valuable information about the events leading up to and immediately following the accident. These witnesses can help to establish the sequence of events and provide insight into what happened.

Medical records are also crucial pieces of evidence in personal injury cases. These records can provide detailed information about the injuries sustained in the accident and the treatment that was received. This information can be used to determine the extent of the injuries and the amount of compensation that the injured party is entitled to.

In addition to the above, there are many other types of evidence that can be used in personal injury cases. For example, surveillance footage of the accident scene (CCTV), dash-cam footage, expert witness testimony, and other types of physical evidence can all be used to support the injured party’s case.

It is important to preserve all relevant evidence as soon as possible after a personal injury occurs. This evidence can help to establish the facts of the case and provide a clear picture of what happened. The more time that goes on after the incident, the harder it is to obtain evidence. Without proper evidence, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to prove liability and secure fair compensation. For these reasons, preserving evidence is crucial in personal injury cases.

Real Life Example of Poor Evidence Determining a Trial Outcome

The decision of Manca v Teys Australia Beenleigh Pty Ltd is, in our opinion, an example of a claim that lost at trial that likely would have been successful if appropriate evidence was obtained and tendered to the court.

The plaintiff, an employee working in the defendant’s meatworks, sought damages for injuries sustained after slipping and falling down a set of steps within the workplace. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant failed to maintain a safe workplace by not adequately cleaning the floors near the steps to remove blood, leading to slippery conditions that caused the slip and fall. The defendant contested the allegations, denying negligence and asserting that the plaintiff’s injuries resulted from his own failure to use the provided handrail in accordance with employee training.

The court examined conflicting submissions regarding the presence of congealed blood on the steps (and the plaintiff’s boots) and whether he slipped at all, or simply misplaced his footing. Unfortunately, there was no expert evidence the form of a liability report to assist the court in determining the cause of the fall.

In the circumstances, the court couldn’t be satisfied that any particular matter caused the plaintiff’s fall. His Honour Judge Barlow KC stated that at most, the evidence tendered from both sides gave rise to “inferences of equal degree of probability so that the choice between them is a mere matter of conjecture … [as to which] the law does not authorise a court to choose between guesses … on the ground that one guess seems more likely than another or the others”, citing Jones v Dunkel (1959) 101 CLR 298, 304-305.

After considering common law principles of negligence and relevant statutory provisions, the Queensland District Court found that the plaintiff failed to meet the burden of proof regarding the causation of the incident and therefore failed to prove any negligence on the part of the defendant.

In our opinion, had the plaintiff tendered an expert liability report that investigated the likelihood of blood on the steps, evaluated the slip rating of the steps, determined how long it takes for blood to congeal, and whether congealed blood is slippery or impacts on the slip rating of the steps, the court would’ve been able to rely on the facts of the report and not have been left with no choice but to weigh up scenarios of equal probability.

Update: This case is currently being appealed, but nevertheless underscores the importance of the onus of proof on plaintiffs to substantiate their claim.

Are you considering making a claim for personal injuries? Contact Roche Legal for a free consultation.

This commentary is published by Roche Legal for general information purposes only and should not be relied on as specific advice. The content relates to Queensland law only and is subject to change over time. You should seek legal advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any decision.