One of the key parts of our job as an injury law firm is gathering evidence to help reconstruct life-changing moments. In the majority of cases, no one expected these moments to occur and it is only afterwards that the importance of the minutes or even seconds of an incident is realized. Fact-gathering is an important part of our work as an Oakland injury law firm and being brought onto a case in a timely fashion ensures we can collect the evidence necessary to help our client recover needed compensation.
A Fact-Intensive Hearing in an Oakland Hit-and-Run
While focused on a pending criminal case (versus our work in civil court), a recent news report serves as a reminder that injury law is very fact-intensive. An Oakland Tribune report details some of the pieces of evidence that led a Santa Cruz County Superior Court to rule that there is enough evidence to have Oakland-resident Joanna Steele stand trial for the hit-and-run death of 70 year-old Adolfo “Adolf” Galvan. The incident occurred on August 24 on Pacific Avenue and Galvan spent 11 days in a coma before passing. Evidence presented at the preliminary hearing included: Testimony of a police officer who interviewed Steele after the incident and told the court she first denied and then later admitted to driving the vehicle believed to be involved in the crash; Records of a test that put Steele’s blood alcohol level at 0.15 three hours after the crash; Testimony of two brothers who together reported witnessing the moments before, during, and after a truck collided with a pedestrian sending him flying into the air; and Video recordings of the truck from a short period prior to the crash.
Steele remains out on bail. She is due back in court for another pre-trial hearing in January and faces up to four years in prison. Preliminary hearings are typically focused on the prosecution’s case and Steele’s defense attorney will no doubt present his own evidence when the case goes to trial.
The Intersection of Law & Facts: The Essential Role of Fact-Gathering in Injury Cases
Injury cases are about the intersection of the law and the facts. As California judges instruct juries: “In criminal trials, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But in civil trials, such as this one, the party who is required to prove something need prove only that it is more likely to be true than not true” (Civil Jury Instruction 200). Most injury cases rest on a theory of negligence and the plaintiff must show that the defendant was negligent, that the plaintiff suffered harm, and that the defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor leading to that harm (see Civil Jury Instruction).
When you are hurt, medical care should be your first priority. We do, however, urge you to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. While the law remains relatively constant, facts require proof and proof can be a fleeting thing — witnesses can disappear, recordings may be taped over, cars are repaired. When we work for an injured client, we invest considerable time in uncovering all the evidence available in order to reconstruct the injury-causing event. In some cases, the police are also conducting an investigation but this is not always the case (in part because of the aforementioned difference in evidentiary standards) and it is important to conduct our own inquiry. Our team is experienced and thorough and we know what to look for in order to help prove our client is entitled to compensation. Call our offices 24/7 to talk to a representative and arrange a free consultation with at our injury law offices in Oakland, San Francisco, or Santa Rosa.
(Photo by Clyde Robinson of work by Jason Luper)