Investigating serious accidents is not for the faint of heart. It is a difficult, time consuming, and potentially expensive undertaking that could make or break your case. In addition, in a fatal accident, the person involved in the accident has passed away, so you will not be able to get their side of the story. To add to the complexity, the family is going through a very difficult time, so they will be of limited assistance during the crucial time frame immediately after the accident.
The Police Report
All investigations of wrongful death accidents begin with the police report. Most police reports can be found online. In New Jersey, for example, The official New Jersey Police Crash Investigation Report is the “NJTR-1,” which can be on the official New Jersey State Government page.
In a routine car accident case, a client will likely come to the initial meeting with a copy of the police report. However, in a wrongful death case, you will most likely have to obtain the police report by yourself. In New Jersey, there are numerous ways to obtain a police report.
If the accident happened on a toll roadway, like the New Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway, the police reports can be found at https://www.buycrash.com/. This is a national website where the police reports from automobile accidents can be found.
For non-toll road New Jersey crashes, police reports can be obtained at https://www.njportal.com/njsp/crashreports/
Finally, for those who are not comfortable online, crash reports can be obtained the old-fashioned way by going to the police department who investigated or through the mail. Information on how to obtain the reports can be found by calling or visiting the local police department.
The Crash Investigation Report
You should familiarize yourself with the basics of the crash investigation report in your state. In New Jersey, for example, there is an overlay sheet which sets forth the information required by the investigating officer. This overlay sheet can be crucial, especially during the deposition of the officer. Pay particular attention to boxes 118 and 119, where the officer will fill out contributing factors to the crash.
In addition, there is a field manual which sets the protocol investigating officers should follow when looking into these accidents. Counsel should be familiar with the field manual, as it sets forth in detail the way the investigation should be conducted. The full manual for New Jersey motor vehicle accidents can be found at the official New Jersey State Government website at http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/refdata/accident/pdf/NJTR-1Field_Manual.pdf
Obtaining Medical Records
Finally, no investigation of an accident is complete without obtaining a copy of all medical records, specifically including the records of the first responders. This may give critical information on the client’s conscious pain and suffering at the scene of the accident. These records, as well as the emergency room and all medical records before the client’s death, must be reviewed in detail to help build the damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Contact an Attorney