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Gathering Evidence for a Legal Case

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Evidence in a Court Case

Gathering evidence for a court case can quickly become overwhelming. Where do you start? What is good evidence? Who can get this evidence for you?

From the onset, understand that no one knows your story better than you. Your attorney will know everything surrounding the legal aspects, but as for the story and facts surrounding your event, you are the expert. Therefore, it seems logical that you will be the best source for gathering much of the evidence. As you think about the story of your emergency event, think about all of the communication that surrounds that event — before, during, and after.

For example, if you are a victim of domestic abuse, think about any emails you may have sent to family or friends describing any and all abuse incidents. Compile all of those emails and make a timeline of the dates. Those dates can then become a catalyst for remembering other corroborating events, like hospital visits, photos taken, phone calls made and texts sent to family or friends, 911 calls, etc. Now you have a list of resources from which you can draw for individual pieces of evidence that all tie together.

email as evidence
There are things to consider before issuing subpoenas when they may not be required to obtain documents.





Acquiring Evidence

Next comes the task of actually gathering the evidence, or acquiring it. Email and texts should be fairly easy to gather. It may be a good idea to make sure you have the full, dated email header and a screenshot of each text, making sure the date and time is clearly visible.

Due to HIPAA laws, any medical or hospital records for anyone other than yourself may require a subpoena through your attorney.

Subpoenas open up a real concern when gathering evidence for a legal case.  During the discovery process, you will share with your attorney everything you believe to be evidence to help your case. With your help, your attorney will, in most cases, help decide which evidence will be beneficial. Whatever evidence you choose to use is required to be shared with opposing counsel.

According to Lawyers.com, “the “discovery” process helps parties gather key evidence and avoid surprises that can sabotage a civil case.”  In general, opposing counsel is entitled to see any documents you subpoena, so for the purpose of acquiring documents, it may be wise to use subpoenas sparingly.

When 911 calls are placed in emergency situations

You may believe that a 911 call was placed which directly ties to your legal case. You may not be sure what is on that 911 call, but since knowledge is power, you want to hear it for yourself to determine if it will help or hurt your case.  If you have your attorney obtain the 911 call recording for you, he will likely do it via a subpoena, which requires him to share the subpoena and the actual call recording itself with opposing counsel.

If the 911 call contains anything that hurts your case, that information will be available to opposing counsel through the subpoena. However, if you were to use a professional service to acquire the 911 call recording without a subpoena, you could review the recording yourself (along with your attorney, if you desire) and decide, privately, whether or not the call actually helps or hurts your case. If you feel the information in the recording is detrimental, you don’t have to disclose it or use it if it was obtained without a subpoena. That doesn’t mean that opposing counsel doesn’t know about the existence of the 911 call and can’t request it themselves, but it does preclude you from having to make them aware of something they might otherwise not know exists. And, of course, should you decide to use it, at that point, your attorney may submit it to opposing counsel as your state law requires.

The most important “take away” is that knowledge is power, and it is in your best interest to be in control of as much of the procurement of evidence as possible.


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