Authorities Look For Clues In Deadly Crash

Investigators have little to go on after a wrong-way car accident in the overnight hours killed one person and seriously injured two others.

Louisiana State Police troopers report that 25-year-old Daniel Elwood, of Tallahassee, Fla., was southbound on State Highway 21 in one of the northbound lanes. Roughly four miles south of Bogalusa, Mr. Elwood collided head-on with a northbound car driven by 17-year-old Jodi Vasbinder, of Covington. Mr. Elwood, who was apparently not wearing a seatbelt, was declared dead at the scene; Ms. Vasbinder was airlifted to a local hospital with serious injuries.

19-year-old Nathan Nicolasi, who was a passenger in Ms. Vasbinder’s vehicle, was injured and transported to a nearby hospital via ambulance. 

Available Electronic Evidence in Car Accident Cases

The vast majority of passenger cars on the roads today are equipped with Event Data Recorders. These gadgets are quite valuable in cases like the one described above, where there are no eyewitnesses. Up until recently, these devices could do little more than record airbag deployment in car accidents. However, modern EDRs are often a treasure trove of information for personal injury attorneys. These devices capture and record a wide array of critical data, including:

  • Brake use,
  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine RPM, and
  • Some mechanical red flags.

One of the things that makes EDRs so valuable is that the information they contain is basically irrefutable in court, because these devices basically take mechanical snapshots of what’s going on at that moment. Even better, most EDRs record about seven seconds of data, so a jury can draw fact-based conclusions about driver behavior.

Using Electronic Evidence in Car Accident Cases

To avoid paying storage costs, and coincidentally deprive the plaintiff of evidence, many insurance companies destroy wrecked vehicles within a few days or weeks. Once this destruction occurs, any evidence in the vehicle – including the EDR – is lost forever. To prevent such loss, an attorney sends a spoliation letter to the vehicle owner, the vehicle’s custodian, the insurance company, and any other interested party.

This letter creates a legal duty to preserve any potential evidence in the case, which includes the vehicle and all its contents. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) or the tortfeasor’s representatives ignore this letter, judges get upset and jurors often conclude that the tortfeasor had something to hide.

According to the 2015 Driver Privacy Act, EDRs can only be accessed with the owner’s express permission or via a court order, in most cases. Typically, an attorney first asks the owner to voluntarily turn over the EDR during discovery. If the owner refuses, a court order becomes necessary, and judges routinely sign these orders.

Winning cases are built on solid evidence. For a free consultation with a diligent personal injury attorney in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. Home and hospital visits are available.