Spoliation of evidence is a legal term associated with the destruction of evidence. The destruction of evidence by a party to a lawsuit can result in significant consequences. For instance, if the defendant destroys evidence, the court can actually enter a default judgment against that defendant. If a plaintiff purposefully destroys evidence the suit he or she has filed can be dismissed.
An interesting twist, significant consequences can befall third parties who destroy evidence, either during litigation or while aware that litigation is likely. This principle is most often applied to insurance companies which – while not technically party to many lawsuits – nevertheless have a huge financial stake in them. One of the first cases holding a third-party responsible for spoliation of evidence was decided by the Alabama Supreme Court. In that case, the Alabama Supreme Court decided that an insurance company that failed to preserve a motor vehicle which had been involved in an accident despite its knowledge that litigation was likely, could be held liable for failing to preserve the minivan in that it was reasonably foreseeable that the minivan would be the central piece of “evidence.”
Preservation of evidence – the converse of spoliation of evidence – is one of the primary reasons to involve a personal injury attorney as early as possible following an injury accident. The attorney can either independently or through the use of investigators or other third parties ensure that all of the evidence necessary to establish the injured person’s case is preserved and preserved in such a way that it can later be entered and used as evidence.