Successful Personal Injury Investigation Review
By Jane Cracraft, CLI, CCDI, Associate Editor of PI magagzine

Iím driving a rental car on a winding, mountain road when I hear the vehicle making odd noises, I see a warning light on the dashboard, and I pull onto the narrow shoulder to consider what to do next. Where are my warning flashers? Iím pawing at the dashboard, the steering wheel and the steering column. I reach for the glove box to get the Operatorís Manual, and there isnít any.

Iím a competent driver. Iíve coped with vehicle malfunctions before. But Iím in an unfamiliar vehicle and I canít even find the warning lights. Whereís that Operatorís Manual?

Iíve felt those same moments of panic and frustration as an investigator. Iím competent, Iím experienced, but itís an odd type of accident case. Iím in unfamiliar territory and I need an Operatorís Manual. Fortunately, there is one.

Successful Personal Injury Investigation by Francis D. ďFrankĒ Ritter, CLI, CII, is an amazing 1,047-page manual for investigators.

Letís say that a child was injured when an amusement park ride came to a sudden stop. Who was operating this ride? How well was he or she trained? Who manufactured the equipment? Who maintained it? Who inspected it? What are the safety standards for this equipment? In Ritterís book, Chapter 12: Product Liability provides a detailed checklist so that the investigator won't miss a step in making a thorough study of this accident.

An elderly man was run over while crossing the street at an intersection. The police report described him a ďjaywalker,Ē but in fact, he was at an unmarked crosswalk. Exactly what is an unmarked crosswalk? What are the pedestrian's rights? Ritter spells it out in Chapter 18 in a section on Vehicle vs. Pedestrian Accidents.

A masonry worker took a nasty fall in a scaffolding accident. In addition to his worker's compensation coverage, is there third party liability? Will there be more than one level of insurance coverage? Who owns the scaffolding? Who assembled the scaffolding? Is it the sturdy type of scaffolding designed to hold the heavy tools, concrete blocks and stone used by a mason? The details of scaffolding are in Chapter 23: Construction Site Accidents.

The PI Magazine Bookstore discounted price for this text is $161.96. It is the most expensive item listed. It will cost a couple of hours of your billable time. However, if you familiarize yourself with it and keep it close at hand, it will save countless hours of frustration and expense when new cases come your way. After you impress your attorney-client with the prompt and thorough resolution of a personal injury claim, you know youíll get more work and good references.

The book is especially useful if you hire and train investigators. I would sit a newcomer down with Chapter 39: Service of Process and Chapter 40: The Report (which provides both good and bad examples of what needs to be included in the written report of a personal injury case investigation.) Then Iíd discuss these topics with my new hire and possibly require reading these chapters another time or two!

Then we could focus on Chapter 1: Ethics and the Professional Investigator; Chapter 2: File Management and Chapter 3: Case Management, which includes such important topics as the general laws of civil liability.

In other chapters, specific types of cases are explored; such as product liability, automobile accidents, bicycle accidents, truck and bus accidents (ďThe number one mechanical problem in most bus-caused accidents is bad brakes!Ē),vehicle fires, construction site accidents, animal-involved accidents, recreation accidents, school-related accidents, premise liability, maritime accidents, and so forth. These chapters contain dozens of diagrams of scenes, sample government forms and informative charts.

If you get your first case of a cheerleading-practice injury at a high school, you can turn to page 705 in Ritterís book. If a high school football playerís helmet failed, start reading at page 687. If an injury was caused by falling merchandise from the high shelves in a retail store, check out page 767. Bungee jumping? Page 684.

Leonard L. ďLennyĒ Accardo, CLI, past national director of the National Association of Legal Investigators, summed it up well when he wrote an endorsement of Successful Personal Injury Investigation: ďThis book is a must for every investigator, whether novice or pro, law enforcement or private sector.Ē

It's a how-to manual of breadth and depth, designed to make every good investigator better.