What Is Spoliation of Evidence?

Evidence is the cornerstone of any personal injury claim or lawsuit, and significantly impacts the likelihood of recovering compensation. Unfortunately, evidence is sometimes intentionally or negligently destroyed, lost, or altered. Spoliation means the spoiling of evidence where it no longer exists for use at trial.  Spoliation is contrary to the rules of court, and can even be illegal.  It harms the parties’ ability to provide evidence at a trial.  An example would be a vehicle in an accident that is needed for evidence.  Our office often asks the other party to keep the vehicle around without altering it, until we can inspect it, and possibly read the vehicle’s black box.  If the vehicle disappears or is crushed or destroyed, we then bring a motion for spoliation to the court.  The court can sanction the other side for not keeping the vehicle – for spoliation.  An accident victim should take steps to prevent the spoliation of evidence for their case, and preserve that evidence where possible.  

If you intend to file a personal injury claim in Minnesota, you should contact a skilled personal injury lawyer to address issues of spoliation right away.  Do not let accident vehicles be altered or destroyed until you talk to an attorney, as it may destroy the evidence needed for the case. At Knutson + Casey, our attorneys have over three decades of experience protecting the rights and interests of injury victims in Minnesota, and dealing with spoliation issues. We have a proven track record of successfully recovering the maximum compensation available for our client’s injuries. When we take your case, your attorney may be able to take action to preserve the essential evidence and build a strong claim on your behalf.

Spoliation of Evidence Explained

Spoliation refers to the intentional or negligent destruction or alteration of evidence. Several different types of evidence may become spoliated, including the following:

  • Physical objects such as vehicles or other machinery involved in an accident
  • Black boxes in vehicles that can be read electronically
  • Photographs and video footage
  • Documents
  • Electronically stored information, such as digital files and emails

Spoliation of evidence is a crime under federal law. If someone is found to have spoliated evidence while legal action is pending in Minnesota, they may be subject to various sanctions, including the following:

  • An order ruling the spoliated evidence favoring the party negatively impacted by the spoliation, and that the jury can assume the very worst about that evidence
  • An order preventing the spoliating party from presenting certain pieces of evidence
  • An order to strike all or part of the legal action
  • An order to compensate the negatively impacted party for expenses such as legal fees

If evidence to support is intentionally damaged or destroyed by the defendant, a skilled attorney may file a motion to impose sanctions on the defendant. While sanctions cannot undo the damage to the evidence, they may be able to aid your claim, and hold the spoliating party responsible for their actions. 

How to Prevent Spoliation of Evidence

A number of parties may choose to spoliate evidence, including defendants, plaintiffs, investigators, and attorneys. If you are planning to pursue a personal injury claim, taking steps to prevent yourself and others from damaging any evidence relevant to your case is essential. A few ways you and your attorney may be able to avoid the spoliation of evidence include the following:

  • Preserving any evidence related to your claim, such as vehicles, photos, videos, documents, or files 
  • Making copies of photos, documents, or files as a backup, or reading black boxes
  • Take and save notes regarding your case
  • Save and back up any emails with your attorney or anyone else regarding your case
  • Send a preservation notice to all parties to prevent the unknowing destruction of evidence

The skilled attorneys at Knutson + Casey have extensive experience preventing the spoliation of evidence in Minnesota. When you retain our services, we will act quickly to investigate your case and take action to preserve evidence to support your claim. 

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney at Knutson + Casey

At Knutson + Casey, our attorneys combine the resources of a large firm with the compassion and friendliness you expect of a neighborhood lawyer. We leverage an innovative approach to practicing law to protect our client’s rights inside and outside the courtroom. We understand the importance of evidence in your case and will work quickly and efficiently to preserve the evidence you need to pursue justice. 

To discuss your legal options with a trusted attorney, schedule a free consultation today by calling (507) 344-8888 or completing our contact form.