Can’t Find Your Client? A Witness? or the Defect?? 5 Proactive Steps to Avoid These Problems

lost and found

Every attorney has his/her own intake survey (generally varying by incident type) and method of working a case.  Below are several situations that our investigators have experienced in the field, and recommendations based on these incidents.  We hope these observations serve a proactive purpose in case management as it applies to clients, witnesses and evidence.

1. Your client’s emergency contacts.

Situation: On numerous occasions we’ve had to locate a client who has moved without notifying his/her attorney.

Recommendation:  Obtain the complete contact information of at least 2 relatives and 2 friends NOT living with the client.  (Drilling deeper,  obtain the DOBs of the emergency contacts.  This may appear to be a rather aggressive suggestion but,  at least 2 of these 4 contacts should be 25 – 59 years old.  Generally, adults within this age range are employed and therefore, more easily trackable than those younger or retired.  Obtain an email address as these are often traceable. )

 

2.  The witnesses.

Situation: I’m sure you’ve all seen a PAR (Police Accident Report) w/a witness listed as “Johnny, 917-555-1234”. (or same, similarly incomplete police report).   No address, no surname and a cell phone that may or may not be active in 2 weeks, let alone 2 years.

Recommendation(s):  1. Call “Johnny” immediately.  Obviously,  the first objective is to determine his knowledge of events regarding your client’s matter.  2. Obtain his contact information and an identifier.  (Again we suggest DOB.  Many people are reluctant to release their SSN.)  3. Obtain an emergency contact for him.   4.  Check the contact info every 6  months until the case achieves resolution.

 

3. Professional photographs of the accident scene, especially if citing defect or disrepair. 

Situation:   Several years ago, we had an exterior premises  trip and fall situation wherein we were called to investigate the scene approximately 4 months post-incident.  The injured person made several natural and unintentional mistakes: 1. Not realizing the extent of his injuries, he did not call 911.  There were no on-site witnesses and no responder witnesses, and  2. When he returned a week or so later, after receiving medical attention, he’d taken photos of the accident scene but the shots contained shadows running across the defect rendering it difficult to determine the exact nature and severity of the  defect.   He was to go back and re-shoot the scene but did not.  4 months later, no defect, no repair record.  The building owner, of course <eye roll>, knew nothing.  Good luck with an area canvass among usually non-cooperative neighbors.

Recommendation: Send out a professional to photograph the accident scene ASAP.  Don’t expect the client to return and accurately record the scene.  Bear in mind, however, that the defect may have permanently “disappeared” and there may not always be a repair record.

From our good friend, http://www.stus.com:

 car accident

4.  If it seems weird; it probably is.  Check all possible contributory factors.

Situation:  Claimant fell UP the stairs.  She wasn’t carrying bags, wore flat shoes; no drugs or alcohol were involved.  No defects, liquids or debris on the ground.

Recommendation: Measure everything.  After taking detailed step and rail measurements, we realized that a) the steps were unequally sized – from the height between them to the protruding lip of each step (which was excessive at the point where she was caused to trip) and b) the rail would have been out of reach from her position regardless, with no secondary wall rail in place.   Rarely do people slip, trip or fall for no reason (unless there is an underlying medical condition).

 

5. Always check to see if drugs and alcohol were involved. (Defense)

Situation:  Building maintenance crew member claims to have fallen off of a defective ladder.  The ACR showed extremely high bp readings; 3 taken at 15 minute intervals by responding EMS – well above the readings that would be expected even in a  such a stressful situation.

Recommendation: Check the medical history.  The individual was on Lipitor and had not taken his medication as prescribed for several days preceding his fall.  (He’d also commented to several co-workers earlier on the day of incident that he was feeling “dizzy”.)  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the ladder, the area surrounding it, nor was he working at a height requiring specialized safety equipment.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Identifying and Reporting Cyber Harassment

(We’re wrapped up in several serious cyber harassment cases at the moment and are sharing several tips on how to handle these type situations that cross over into criminality.  All too frequently we feel our hands are tied in trying to protect ourselves, our businesses and families from this type of harassment but in reality, the reporting protocol for these type incidents already exists.  Below is information on how to report cyber harassment.)

Cyber harassment refers to the malicious use of technology to willfully and deliberately harass or harm another individual or entity.  Cyber harassment can qualify as a federal crime.  Undoubtedly though, it is a scary experience for the victim. If you are in fear of imminent danger to your welfare or that of  others,  call 911 immediately to report the harassment.

Instructions  

1.  Determine whether you are the victim of cyber harassment. The lines between genuine cyber harassment and general nuisance are blurry, so it can be difficult to substantiate a claim of Internet harassment. If someone is threatening you with violence and you genuinely fear for your safety and well-being, you might meet the criteria of being a victim. It is important to note that hacking, cyber spying and cyber stalking are not forms of Internet harassment. The first two are not necessarily criminal activities, depending on the nature of the offender’s behavior, and the latter is a separate crime, which should be reported and addressed differently than cyber harassment, defined by the Federal Anti-Cyber-Stalking Act.

2.  Do what you can to reduce or prevent further Internet harassment from occurring. This includes changing your email address, screen names and member names for instant messaging programs and social networking websites; applying private settings to your profiles and websites that currently are public; and ceasing all contact with the person who is harassing you. You must demonstrate that you have taken steps to stop the person from harassing you. If you communicate continuously with the individual who is harassing you, your chances of  being able to report and stop Internet harassment will drop significantly.

3.  Gather as much information as you can about the individual harassing you. This can prove to be quite difficult given the anonymous nature of the Internet, but technology allows law enforcement to track down anonymous harassers by using multiple methods. Develop a log that includes email addresses, screen names, and website and social networking profile URLs that belong to the person/people harassing you. Save and print emails and conversations, create “screen grabs” or screenshots of websites or profiles with threatening or malicious content, and keep track of the offender’s every attempt to contact you. A detailed log containing dates, times and places will help you immensely when you report cyber harassment. If possible, also try to locate and write down the offender’s Internet Protocol (IP) address.

4.  Contact your local law enforcement agency and ask to report cyber harassment. Use the police department’s non-emergency (administrative) telephone number or visit in person to make your report. Be prepared to provide information you have detailed in your log.   If you know the offender’s (even general) location, you can contact his local police department or file a report with both precincts. Be sure to get a copy of any police report you file.

5.  Contact your local FBI field office if your local police department is unable to or uninterested in pursuing your report. You can locate your local office using the FBI’s field office locator online, or ask you local police department for the information. Always attempt to make a report with your local police department before contacting the FBI, unless you have reason to believe the harassment is terroristic in nature,  (e.g., the offender is threatening to plant a bomb or commit a school shooting).

6.  Contact a cyber harassment watch group for more assistance. While your matter is under investigation, you can contact an organization such as WiredSafety for further assistance and general support. Note that this type organization is not a governmental or law enforcement agency and you should not rely on these private groups as an alternative to law enforcement authorities.

As always, stay safe.